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Gut Health & Mood: Are they really unrelated?

image of anxiety, frustration, mood; related to how anxiety and gut health are connected

Don’t ignore these “gut” feelings.

Have you ever felt grumpy but couldn’t pin point a reason? 

Before I worked on healing my gut, I’d often find myself irritable and angry. Oftentimes I had no idea where the shift came from – I wasn’t dealing with a particularly heavy work load or it wasn’t PMS. Working out and even talking with someone helped a little, but these bouts of irritation persisted. 

Maybe it’s not anger you’re feeling…it might be constant butterflies in your stomach? Increased IBS symptoms when you’re feeling anxious? If you’re like me and these feelings won’t seem to go away, it might be time to look at your gut-brain relationship! 

The gut-brain connection

Emotional shifts often trigger symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract, but poor gut health can also lead to mood shifts. ⁠

For the longest time, sufferers of gut sypmtoms (like IBS) were often told it was just in our head or avoiding stress would magically cure it all. But that’s not really a solution…instead many would find themselves in a cycle of being anxious which led to gut problems, but having gut problems only increased the anxiety! 

Furthermore, an imbalanced intestine can send signals to the brain just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut microbes. The alterations of gut microbiota have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases as well as mood disturbance and depression. In fact, mental health alterations are frequently observed in many GI diseases. ⁠

These are some ways your gut health and mood are connected:

😩When the sympathetic nervous system is active, we’re more focused on fight/flight than digestion. Not much time to digest when we’re fighting off a proverbial lion.
😩Bifidobacterium infantis eased anxiety and normalized HPA (stress) regulation.
😩LPS/endotoxins, or bacterial toxins in the gut cause inflammation & may induce depressive-like behaviors.
😩Certain gut microbiota are able to produce GABA modulating the gut–brain axis response. GABA is known for its calming effect, lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle spasms, and managing mood.

How to improve your mood:

Unfortunately, sometimes meditation and deep breathing won’t cut it or only provide temporary relief. For more long-term relief to improving mood or gut symptoms, it may be time to look into the root cause of your concerns and begin healing the gut. 

So, where do you start to improve your gut health and mood? Here are some habits that helped me! 🔽
🍗Include protein at every meal. Protein contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid, required to make serotonin – our feel good hormone. It will provide longer-lasting feelings of serotonin compared to a piece of chocolate. 
🧘‍♀️Find an mindful movement strategy that works for you. Two of my faves are yoga and taichi! 
💤Prioritize sleep. Try to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep. 
🫂Get support. Surround yourself with supportive friends or reach out for professional help if needed. 
🌈Eat the rainbow. By including more colorful, whole foods, the more variety of fruits and veggies feed your healthy gut bacteria so they can make more serotonin, since 95% of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. Download my Stress & Anxiety support meal plan to help you get a jump start on improving your mood and take one less thing off your list this week! ✅

🧠Consider supporting your gut health and brain with supplements, like ZenBiome: Dual, with dual-action probiotic combos to support digestive comfort and mood self-regulation. Exclusively sold at Fullscript dispensaries, like mine: Savvy Supplements. 

📖Lastly, you can learn more about gut health and anxiety in my 30-minute FREE masterclass.

If you’re still having shifts in mood and unrelenting anxiety, it may be time to move away from the stigma that your illness or the way you’re feeling is just in your head. Get to the root cause of your mood concerns to heal at a deeper level.

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Paulina Lee is a functional and integrative dietitian, who specializes in gut health and IBS. She works with women looking for long-term relief from IBS so they can get back to what's important to them - their life, work, and relationships.

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