The link between gut health and mental health

The term ‘gut health’ refers to how well your digestive system is working.

Your digestive system is also known as your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and is where your body digests food, absorbs energy and nutrients, and gets rid of waste products. It includes your throat, food pipe, stomach and intestines.

Your gut contains trillions of tiny bacteria and other microorganisms. But unlike harmful bacteria that can make you ill, the natural bacteria found in your gut are good for you. This is because they help to break down the food you eat, and they also support your immune system (your body’s way of fighting off infections).

You might also hear the bacteria in your gut called good bacteria, friendly bacteria, gut flora, microorganisms, microbiota or microbes.

There is a link between your gut and your brain, this is sometimes referred to as the mind-gut connection, the brain-gut connection, or the gut-brain axis.

You may find that if you feel anxious or stressed you experience gut symptoms yourself. You might lose your appetite, get pain in your tummy, or experience diarrhoea. Research has also shown that some digestive conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are linked with both anxiety and depression.

There are lots of things that can change the balance of bacteria within your gut. This includes:

  • taking certain antibiotics 
  • having food poisoning 
  • having a health condition like IBS
  • having travellers’ diarrhoea
  • getting older

One of the best things you can do to look after your gut is to eat a balanced and varied diet. Try to include lots of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.

Some people also take probiotics to try and improve their gut health. Probiotics are ‘live’ bacteria found in some yoghurts and yoghurt drinks. They’re also found in fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh. They’re also available as a supplement.

If you do choose to take probiotics, it’s important to know that there are lots of different types (strains). Not all probiotic products or supplements are made or work in the same way. If you’re a healthy person, taking probiotics is generally considered safe. Some probiotics they may not be suitable if you have problems with your immune system so it’s important to speak to a GP before trying them. 

You can also include prebiotics in your diet. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that can’t be digested by your body. Instead, they feed the good bacteria in your gut and help them to grow. Prebiotics are found naturally in onions, garlic, asparagus, artichoke, chicory and bananas. 

If you are concerned about your mental or gut health, you can speak to an expert by calling our team on 0161 394 0319 to book a same or next-day appointment

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