All of us have likely used something called “gut instinct” as a tool for deciding what we should and shouldn’t do in specific situations. It happens on a daily basis and is considered very normal. When making those decisions, have you ever been a bit anxious or nervous and felt like butterflies were using your stomach as their main flight path? I know I have. The human gut is frequently called the “second brain” and for excellent reasons. Research shows a definite link between anxiety and the gut and how the good and bad bacteria directly influence this link in the gut. Harmful bacteria are known to ramp up anxiety, and more than several studies show that probiotics can have the opposite effect. With this research, we know that the gut, and not just the brain, is one of the chief instigators of anxiety.
Anxiety affects nearly 40 million people in the United States. About seven million adults and one in eight children have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and the Gut Link
Gastrointestinal disorders are often linked to anxiety and mood issues. Researchers hypothesize that affected people could significantly improve anxiety symptoms by balancing the microbiota in their gut with more beneficial bacteria. Speculation about other mental issues, such as autism, has also been convincingly linked with imbalances in the intestinal flora.
Gut bacteria are also responsible for many metabolic and biological processes within the body. Brain health and mood balance are significantly affected by the ratio of good bacteria in the intestinal flora. In one 2010 study at McMaster University in Canada, published in the journal Communicative and Integrative Biology, scientists found a link between intestinal microbiota and anxiety-like behavior. They observed just how commanding the gut is at influencing brain chemistry and behavior.
In this study, the researchers upset normal gut bacteria count in healthy mice by dispensing antibiotics, bacteria-killing medicines that destroy all bacteria in its path — including good bacteria. Following disruption of the average flora balance, mice became less cautious, and changes in the animals’ brain-derived neurotrophic factor — a protein associated with mood disorders — increased significantly. Upon halting the antibiotics, gut bacteria normalized, and brain chemistry restored to pre-study levels.
“The gut bacteria talk to the brain in multiple ways through either the immune system or the enteric nervous system. It’s sort of like if you imagine a mesh network, and you took your intestinal tract and wrapped that like a hot dog bun outside a hot dog. More neurons directly surround your GI tract than in the whole spinal cord.” Jane Foster, associate professor of neuroscience and behavioral science – McMaster University & Brain-Body Institute
Researchers also noted that, while many factors play a role in dictating mood and mental health, bacteria in the gut strongly influences behavior and can be noticeably disrupted during antibiotic administration. This conclusion leads many to believe that the use of probiotics, beneficial bacteria found to affect serotonin levels, the immune system, and digestion, could be a helpful therapeutic tool for behavioral disorders.
Serotonin: Your Gut’s Mood-Boosting Neurotransmitter
Roughly 90% of serotonin is in the intestinal tract and around 5-10% in your brain. In fact, a healthy intestinal tract may correlate with healthy levels of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter responsible for controlling mood. Nearly 1 trillion bacteria live in your gut, and close to 100 million neurons also reside in your intestines, discharging the myth that our neural health is manipulated only by the brain. This is why it is crucial to keep your entire body healthy to support a healthy mood balance.
DID YOU KNOW? Key life transitions — adolescence and menopause, for example — are when “big changes” are going on in the gut-brain relationship, and probiotics might help build stronger resilience.
Mental Health Support Via a Healthy Gut
The good news is that sustaining good digestive health by eating natural foods, particularly those with good probiotic qualities, and drinking adequate amounts of purified water may be very beneficial for encouraging good mental health. Also, daily exercise, daily sunlight, and increasing your probiotic intake may help boost your serotonin levels and support a good mood naturally.
If you are searching for a high-quality probiotic supplement, my family and I use and highly recommend Floratrex™. Floratrex provides a blend of twenty-five of the most beneficial probiotic strains that support digestion and intestinal function and boost the immune system. This advanced formula provides 75 billion CFUs as well as prebiotics to help them flourish. Have you noticed any mental or emotional effects when you include probiotics as part of your overall nutritional protocol? Do you feel less anxious when you’re eating healthy and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle? Let me know your experience by commenting below.
- Emmanuel Denou, Wendy Jackson, Jun Lu, Patricia Blennerhassett, Kathy McCoy, Elena F. Verdu, Stephen M. Collins, Premysl Bercik. The Intestinal Microbiota Determines Mouse Behavior and Brain BDNF Levels. Gastroenterology, Vol. 140, Issue 5, Supplement 1, Page S-57.
- Helena MRT Parracho, Max O Bingham, Glenn R Gibson and Anne L McCartney. Differences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children. Journal of Medical Microbiology. October 2005 vol. 54 no. 10 987-991. DOI: 10.1099/jmm.0.46101-0.
- Timothy G. Dinan, Catherine Stanton, John F. Cryan. Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic. Biological Psychiatry, 2013; 74 (10): 720 DOI:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.001.
- F De Ponti. Pharmacology of serotonin: what a clinician should know. Gut. October 2004; 53(10): 1520-1535.
- Simon N. Young. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. November 2007; 32(6): 394-399.
- Bravo, J.A. et al (2011) Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Anxiety Disorder Statistics.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.