How your digestive health affects your mental health

by | Mar 26, 2023 | Life


Researchers, through many studies, have linked healthy gut function to normal central nervous system function. This explains why a disturbed gut function is responsible for the onset of anxiety and depression in people. The hormones, neurotransmitters and immunological factors released from the gut send signals to the brain either directly or through autonomic neurons. This connection is bidirectional, which means both the gut and brain can send signals to each other. As per terminology, this is the gut-brain axis.

The microbiome is defined as the population of microorganisms in the human gut along with their genetic material. The gut microbiome is essential in maintaining digestive health. Therefore, corrective steps must be taken to maintain gut microbiome diversity, for it will control dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut. This imbalance also affects neuropsychiatric health, by inducing alterations in the signaling pathways of the gut-brain axis. Studies on the gut-brain axis have highlighted the relevance of gut microbiome in controlling the dysbiosis of brain regions, specific to stress-related behaviors.

Our gut produces many hormones that can help us process thoughts and emotions. This is the reason, why gut is referred to as the second brain. About 95 percent of serotonin, a happy hormone, is made in the gut. This hormone is responsible to promote emotional well-being, self-confidence, and good sleep. 


The incredible complexity of the gut microbiome and its benefits to our overall health is a subject of research now a days. The higher level of diversity of gut bacteria is linked to improved health. Therefore, you will notice psychological symptoms in case of an unhealthy gut as, a troubled intestine will send signals to the brain. 

  1. Gut health and anxiety

Anxiety disorder is characterized by a feeling of worry or fear that is strong enough to obstruct one’s normal way of living. But how is it triggered? The researchers have revealed a strong link between your brain and gut health. 56% of the studies in the review proved that healing the gut through diet, especially the low FODMAP diet led to improvement in anxiety symptoms. This means you can treat anxiety by regulating the intestinal microbiome. Some gastrointestinal conditions linked to anxiety are irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

  1. Gut health and depression

Depression is a common mental disorder which is triggered by facing stressful events over a long period of time. It is a feeling of unhappiness and lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Although several factors are responsible, research shows gut microbiota play a significant role in triggering depressive symptoms. About 13 types of bacteria residing in your gut are responsible for causing depression. These bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and glutamate associated with this mental disorder. Hence, diet modification and fecal microbiota transplant are the modern tools to treat depression and anxiety.

  1. Gut and mood disorders

As per Johns Hopkins Medicine, significant changes in the gut’s enteric nervous system may send signals to the brain that can trigger mood changes. This means that what you feed your gut and the microorganisms’ health will decide how you feel emotionally on a daily basis. 

  1. Hamper your self-confidence

A chronic gut disorder can be responsible for the deterioration of the cognitive functioning of your brain. This cognitive sluggishness will result in mental problems like brain fog, impaired focus, and decreased mental clarity. All these symptoms will hamper your personality, behavioral patterns and self-confidence at work and in social gatherings. Certain symptoms experienced by these patients are:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Trouble finding the correct words when communicating verbally
  • A feeling of disorientation
  • Memory impairments
  1. Severe psychological disorders

If the gut problems persist for a long time, they will be linked to several mental illnesses, such as:

  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease


You should see a doctor if your mental problems continue for a long time. Depending on the type of disorder and its severity, they may prescribe medications or supplements along with lifestyle changes. These interventions will help you adjust your gut microbiome’s dysbiosis to improve your mental health and raise your self-esteem. 

  1. Add fermented foods

Fermented foods may not be your preference but, they are good for your digestive health. These foods are rich in probiotics that help keep the harmful gut bacteria at bay in the intestines. Let us understand the term probiotics as it may be new to some. Probiotics are live bacteria which resemble the good bacteria already in our gut. So, adding them to your daily diet plan will enhance the beneficial bacteria and improve our health. 

Some probiotics are sauerkraut, kimchi, buttermilk, plain yogurt and kombucha. If your health professional advises you to consume probiotic supplements, look for a label that says it has “live and active cultures”. 

  1. Enhance your diet with fiber-rich foods.

The fiber in your food feeds your good gut bacteria. Therefore, your well-balanced diet must contain at least 50% fiber. These are mainly plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Besides maintaining the gut microflora in good balance, fiber also has some other benefits. They remain undigested in the upper digestive tract and pass into the intestine to add bulk to your waste. Thus, fiber can be used as a preventive and treatment tool against the most common digestive problem, constipation. 

  1. Limit intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners

Now-a-days, overuse of refined sugars is what is upsetting your gut. A diet high in processed foods and added sweeteners can reduce the number of good bacteria, for they feed the bad bacteria. This imbalance will further crave you to feed on sweets and sugars even more. Excessive sugar intake also causes sudden spikes and low energy levels, drastically affecting your mood. 

  1. Control your stress levels.

Chronic stress can be hard on your body and mind. It will cause digestive upset and nausea and consequently reduce the level of good gut bacteria. Although getting rid of stress completely is not always possible but, finding ways to manage it can reduce the negative effects. Try stress management methods like meditation, journaling, massage, avoiding overwork and getting regular exercise and sleep. 

  1. Get enough rest

After putting your brain and body through strenuous activities of day-to-day life, you also need to give it adequate resting time. Your sleeping hours are the healing hours for your body. Therefore, getting enough uninterrupted sleep at night will do wonders in promoting the good gut bacteria, thus, supporting your overall health. Some tips which will support you to get good sleep are:

  • Go to bed on time
  • Turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime
  • Keep your workplace out of your bedroom
  • If possible, meditate or offer prayers before sleeping
  1. Maintain a healthy weight

Being a healthy weight is good for your digestive health and self-confidence. But this doesn’t means, that you body shame yourself. Passing harsh comments about your own body, it hurts your self-esteem. So, be kind to yourself and work on things to reduce or maintain your body weight. This will boost your confidence and improve your digestive health, as shifting to healthy foods is part of your weight loss regimen. 


The growing amount of evidence substantiating the gut-brain axis indicates the importance of a healthy gut microbiome in patients suffering from mental disorders. Thus, it provides an area of treatment that can promote healing when combined with conventional medications. You just need to improve the diversity of your gut microbiome by introducing some dietary changes and modifying your living.

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Dr. Bob Singhal

Professor Bhupendra 'Bob' Singhal, has taught creativity by joy and right-brain thinking, is a renowned international architect, won major design competitions, has over 70 awards, publications, and media mentions, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects South Bay. In 2011, in his book Joy in Health and Happiness: Your Optimal Path to Success, Professor Singhal wrote about the transformative power of joy and helped readers learn to enhance their daily experience of it.


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