If you don’t struggle with significant digestive issues (luck you!), you might be wondering why you should care about gut health.
What’s all the rage about? Should you be worried about gut health if you’ve got a stomach of steel?
Put simply: the gut influences the rest of your body. If you’ve got other health issues, checking on your gut is a smart move.
Let’s take a look at how intestinal health influences mental health.
Gut health influences the rest of the body
First of all – what do we mean when we say gut health? If you’re a little lost, check out our blogs on dysbiosis to make sure you’ve got a solid knowledge basis first.
It turns out that the balance of the microbes living in our guts – aka, the composition of the gut microbiome – influences the way other body systems function.
Gut microorganisms play fundamental roles in many aspects of human biology, including:
- The endocrine system (hormones)
- The reproductive system
- The nervous system (where mental health comes in!)
- The immune system
- The musculoskeletal system
Dysbiosis, an imbalanced microbiome, is associated with increased susceptibility to infections and diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, and other inflammatory diseases due to these connections (2).
Gut microbes and the brain
Scientists have recently discovered that there is a link between gut microbiota and the brain. They call this connection the gut-brain axis.
Ever felt butterflies in your stomach? That’s the gut-brain axis at work!
Gut microbes influence levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.
Imbalanced neurotransmitter levels due to dysbiosis have been implicated in diseases like Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety, autism, and even dementia.
The gut-brain axis can also operate in the opposite direction; the brain can influence the gut.
Stress-induced intestinal inflammation (yes, that’s a real thing!), for example, may negatively impact microbial balance. How so?
When stressed, the body releases catabolic hormones and inflammatory cytokines that impact the environment where microbes live (your gut). These stress-induced environmental changes may increase or decrease the amount of helpful and harmful microbes occupying the intestines – a bad thing for gut health.
While more research is needed to clarify the complex bidirectional interactions associated with the gut-brain axis, there is promising evidence to suggest that gut health should be part of any mind-body health program.
In short: a healthy gut lays the foundation for a healthy mind. If you struggle with mental health, consider improving the composition of your microbiome. Check out our blogs on dysbiosis to learn how to go about that!
Tag us in photos of your digestive wellness journey @igynutrition on Instagram!