The gut is often referred to as the second brain. And for good reason. The gut has as many brain cells in it as a small cat. As well as constantly monitoring our health and the environment, those brain cells are also communicating with the huge colony of micro-organisms that populate our large intestine, known as the microbiome. Bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even viruses reside inside our bowel. They’re actually extremely hard working and important to maintain our health and wellbeing. We start collecting them from the minute we are born, and the population of the colony changes on a daily basis depending on what we are eating, how stressed we are, whether we are taking any medication and even whether we are getting enough exercise and sleeping well.
What is the link between your gut health and your mental health?
That’s an interesting one. If the gut is under stress because of infection, inflammation, or if the bacterial balance is out of line (dysbiosis) then it can cause fatigue, depression or anxiety. Secondly, if your gut and digestion are compromised and you are unable to digest or absorb some of the vitamins and minerals we need daily, you will be a lot less likely to feel mentally well. Did you know it takes over 20 different nutrients to have a happy thought?
Finally, some of those gut bacteria play a direct role in producing serotonin, a hormone that promotes wellbeing and happiness. So the gut interacts with our mental health in many different ways.
Mental health is one of the key areas we discuss in our initial consultations. And inevitably we will start by working on gut health.