Lots of things in life can make a person stress. Lack of money. Pressures at work. Lack of healthy gut bacteria.
Wait, what? Lack of healthy gut bacteria?
Yes! According to growing research, the type of bacteria a person has in their gut determines more than just their health. It also determines their emotional state.
What is Healthy Gut Bacteria?
Within the gut there are multiple colonies of bacteria, living, breathing, and reproducing. Some of the bacteria colonies are good for you. They promote health and they promote wellbeing. Some of these colonies, on the other hand, are bad for you. They tax the gut and hamper the body’s ability to ward off infection.
Gut microbiota is incredibly sensitive. Small changes one way or another can have a profound impact on the body. Some of the good strains of bacteria you might have heard of previously include lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, streptococcus, and bacillus.
How Does Gut Bacteria Affect Stress Levels?
For years, the gut has been referred to as the second nervous system.
An intimate connection exists between the gut and the brain, often alluded to as the gut-brain axis. Evidence shows that both can alter the functioning of the other. That’s why, if you ever experience bouts of extreme anxiety, you’ll find your stomach growls and you lose your appetite. It also works in reverse. If you eat too much junk food, you’ll usually find your mood changes significantly and you have brain fog and problems concentrating.
Because bacteria plays such a large role in absorbing nutrients from food, defending against pathogens and breaking down indigestible compounds, when there’s a lack of good bacteria, the gut works far less efficiently than it should. This in turn affects the brain, and has been linked to an increase in anxiety and overall stress levels.
The Latest Research
Just how the gut can make a person more anxious hasn’t been established just yet. But scientists are very keen to pinpoint the link.
One of the most promising studies was conducted on mice. In one group of mice, bacteria from their bodies was removed. Even in stressful situations, these mice responded with much less anxiety than the mice with regular bacteria.
This indicates that bad bacteria in the gut plays a significant role in determining mood.
How to Improve Gut Bacteria Levels
There are steps you can take today to make sure your levels are as healthy as possible.
First, see a naturopath who specializes in gut health, if suffering from symptoms of leaky gut or candida infection. Both of these make the gut extremely vulnerable and unable to function properly. It becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria and your health and mood suffer as a result. There are many functional tests a naturopath can do to measure both your bacteria levels and how well your gut is functioning.
Second, try to include sources of good bacteria in your daily diet. Kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and probiotic drinks can all help, assuming you’re otherwise in good health.
- Weber, H (2013) ‘Naval Grazing: Healthy gut bacteria can help you stress less’ The Conversation Viewed online on 21st October 2015 at https://theconversation.com/navel-gazing-healthy-gut-bacteria-can-help-you-stress-less-20201