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How is your mental wellness connected to your gut?

74% of adults in the UK have felt so stressed at some point over recent years that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.1https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/statistics/stress-statistics

Stress can significantly impact the diversity of your microbiome, a complex ecosystem of bacteria residing in your gut that plays a crucial role in your overall health. The gut-brain axis describes the bidirectional communication network between the gut and the brain. This axis serves as the conduit through which stress affects digestion and overall wellbeing. When you experience stress, whether it’s acute or chronic, the communication along this axis becomes heightened, often leading to digestive discomfort and disturbances.

What happens to your brain affects your gut – and what happens to your gut affects your brain. In fact, they call your gut “the second brain” – when you have a “gut instinct” about something, that’s your second brain at work!

The vagus nerve, stress and diversity

The vagus nerve, a major component of the gut-brain axis, serves as a direct link between your gut and your brain. When stress levels are elevated, this communication line becomes hyperactive, exacerbating any digestive issues you may experience during stressful periods. Consequently, maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut becomes challenging, as stress can diminish their diversity and abundance. In 2019, the first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identified consistent depletion of Coprococcus and Dialister bacteria in individuals with depression. Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus bacteria were also consistently associated with higher quality of life indicators.2https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0337-x

Counteracting the effects of stress

To counteract the negative effects of stress on your gut and mind, integrating stress-reduction practices into your daily routine is essential. These practices can include mindfulness meditation, deep-breathing exercises, journaling, spending time in nature, practising yoga, or simply carving out a few moments of peace and quiet away from distractions. The key is to find what works best for you and fosters a sense of calm and relaxation. Asking for help when you can and getting sufficient sleep can also massively help manage stress levels.

Take a closer look at your daily schedule and find a time when you can dedicate yourself to these stress-reduction activities, even if it’s just for ten minutes each day. Prioritising ‘me-time’ not only supports your gut health by reducing stress levels but also promotes overall mental and emotional well-being. By making space for relaxation and self-care, you empower yourself to better manage stress and cultivate a healthier microbiome.

The microbiome and mood

Incorporating a Gut Health Protocol can also help provide you with support in this area. The microbes in your digestive system impact mood, emotion, and behaviour, so improving your gut health can boost your resilience and ability to deal with adverse situations. Researchers have reversed depression symptoms in mice by feeding them Lactobacillus, a probiotic bacteria found in Chuckling Goat Kefir and other live-cultures dairy food.3https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159123003343?via%3Dihub#b01254https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/4/819 Researchers observed that a single strain of Lactobacillus can influence mood. Lactobacillus has also found to be a psychobiotic which alleviates both self-reported depression and anxiety in patients.5https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/6/1294

A 2015 study found that taking a galactooligosaccharide (GOS) prebiotic for three weeks significantly reduced the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body.6https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25449699/ Prebiotics like GOS, which is found in our Complete Prebiotic, are known to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can have various health benefits, including potential stress reduction. Other studies showed that symptoms of anxiety and depression were improved through probiotic supplementation. Most excitingly, a recent 2023 study showed that Chuckling Goat Synbiotic has “profound effects” on emotional health within 6 weeks of intervention. Read the study review by NutraIngredients Europe here. Read the full research article in the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research here.

So take this article as your reminder to schedule some me-time and make yourself a priority ❤️

For a closer insight into the health of your microbiome and mental wellness, check out our new CG Microbiome Test. For more on the gut-brain axis, read How is your gut connected to your brain?.

Any questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm.

References

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