How Gut Health is Linked to Mental Health   

How Gut Health is Linked to Mental Health

Woman shopping in supermarket
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Donald J. Parker

Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about a situation? Or maybe you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? You may even feel like you need to run to the restroom when your anxiety kicks in. Our gut has a lot to say when it comes to our mental health, and it plays a key role in our overall well-being. Your intestinal wall stores 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system. An unwell gut will lead to more health problems down the road. Stress, depression and anxiety can negatively affect our gastrointestinal system.

“Research has found that the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system are in constant communication,” says Donald J. Parker, LCSW. “This relationship is referred to as the gut-brain-axis. Psychological factors can impact the way in which your GI tract moves and contracts. And vice versa, an unhealthy GI tract can cause you to experience depression, anxiety, brain fog and more.”

Is Your GI Tract Unhealthy?

Some signs that your GI tract is unhealthy are:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Food intolerance

How to Keep Your GI Tract in Top Shape

It’s important to keep your GI tract in tip-top shape. Here are tips for cleaning up your gut and, in turn, supporting your mental health:

  • Improve Your Diet: If you’re experiencing much inflammation and irritation of the gut, consider taking a daily probiotic. Eliminating dairy and gluten from your diet, as well as eating more organic and colorful fruits and vegetables, may also help heal your GI tract. Adding high-fiber and fermented foods to your diet will be useful, too. If you want additional guidance on how you can clean up your diet, consider nutritional counseling.
  • Take Time for Self-Care: Stress, depression and anxiety have a huge impact on your gut health. Putting time aside to meditate and journal at some point during your day may help alleviate some of these feelings. Of course, there are times when our mental health may be too much to handle on our own. When additional support is needed, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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