Listen to Your Gut: 3 Ways to Support Your Mental Health

By Guest

While many of us traditionally think of bacteria as “bad,” the bulk of the bacteria in our body are essential to our physical and mental health. Over 100 trillion bacteria reside in the gut — more than all the cells in our body. Also, most of our antibody-producing cells reside in the gut and are responsible for providing a whole host of hormones that directly affect both our DNA and our brain.

In fact, the gut microbiome can regulate what genes are turned on and off in our body — significantly impacting our immune system, our mood, and our memory.

Mental Health, Addiction, and the Gut

Thanks to recent advances in technology, we can now identify large numbers of bacterial species and how they correlate with major depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and even addiction. Hormones and other chemicals produced by the bacteria in our gut can travel directly to our brains to make us calm and resilient — or in an unhealthy gut, make us anxious or depressed. So when we say we have a “gut feeling,” it is actually true.

The good news is that the gut microbiome can be made healthier. While we are still learning about what the “ideal” gut microbiome would look like, we are beginning to understand which bacteria are present in a healthy gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Read more about the gut-brain axis

Checking in With Your Gut

If you sense an imbalance, or find yourself growing less resilient to stress, exploring your gut bacteria is a great first move. Here are a few ways to identify gut-related problems:

1. Start with a diet analysis. If you live in an industrialized world and eat lots of modern, processed foods, it is likely your gut microbiome is suffering. Studies show that people who live more closely with the land — like Amish or rural Swiss farmers — tend to have healthier gut microbiomes than people who live in urban and suburban industrial regions.

In addition, the overuse of antibiotics not only causes immune superbugs, but also disrupts our gut microbiome, making us more susceptible to a whole host of illnesses. So if your dinner comes from a box more often than the ground, consider revamping your diet.

2. Listen to your gut. While it’s possible to do a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (which will tell you what type of bacteria you harbor in your gut), there are simpler ways to identify gut-related problems. If you regularly experience constipation, loose stools, or GI upset, you may have a gut imbalance.

Also: mood shifts after consuming certain foods; signs of increased inflammation in the body like skin rashes, joint swelling, and joint soreness; poor hair, skin, and nail health; brain fog; and significant weight gain or loss can all point to a gut microbiome imbalance. Finally, recurrent infections like the flu, bronchitis, or colds may signal that your gut microbiome is out of balance.

3. Consult with a healthcare professional if symptoms are serious. An imbalanced gut microbiome can cause a minor inconvenience or a severe, life-altering illness, so check with your physician if you exhibit fever, bloody stools, acute abdominal pain, persistent nausea, or vomiting.

Some bacteria, like the toxic Clostridium difficile, can be incredibly harmful, or even fatal. Interestingly, doctors are now transplanting stools from individuals with healthy guts to those with unhealthy ones to help eradicate harmful bacteria like C. difficile—with great results.

So if you notice something is off in your tummy, mood, or overall health, it’s possible your gut is to blame. Following the steps outlined above will help you on your way to better overall health.

[Editor's Note: Naturally Savvy recommends supporting your gut health with the quality probiotic supplements from our sponsor Bio-K.]

READ MORE: 5 Healthy Benefits of Probiotics

Written by Dr. Mark Calarco. Dr. Calarco is the national medical director of American Addiction Centers, a leader in drug and alcohol abuse treatment. He is a pioneer in treating hormone imbalances in recovering individuals and has served as a board member for the State of Tennessee Medical Laboratory Board and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Dr. Calarco was also the first board-certified anti-aging and regenerative medicine specialist in Tennessee.

By Guest| August 29, 2016
Categories:  Care

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