The Link Between Anxiety & Your Gut
While these sensations aren’t the slightest bit comfortable, they are common during nerve-wracking moments, and the fact that they often appear alongside feelings of anxiety goes to show that there is a close connection between your feelings and your digestive tract. That is to say that your feelings and mood have the ability to impact your digestive health and vice versa, all thanks to something known as the gut-brain axis.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The gut-brain axis, which is also known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), is often called the body’s ‘second brain.’ This connection is bidirectional, meaning it goes both ways, and it is one of the most essential connections in your body as it connects your gastrointestinal tract to your central nervous system. Essentially, you can think of this connection as a two-lane highway that allows information to commute from your brain to your gut and back again. Since the connection is bidirectional, strong feelings like anxiety can both impact and be impacted by your gut health.
This important connection between your gut and brain is formed both physically via the vagus nerve and biochemically via neurotransmitters. If either of these pathways is disrupted, the functionality of both your brain and your digestive system can be affected, and one of the most common factors that can cause these disruptions is strong feelings like anxiety.
How Anxiety Affects Your Gut
While the exact mechanisms of the gut-brain axis are still not completely understood, we do know that the connection is formed both physically via the vagus nerve and biochemically via neurotransmitters. Without getting too deep into the science of it, here’s what you need to know:
The vagus nerve and a few smaller nerves in the area allow important signals to be sent in both directions, which is important for a variety of functions like gut motility and the secretion of digestive enzymes. The vagus nerve in particular also serves as a connection between the gut and brain through the parasympathetic nervous system, which, in short, allows the two to send stress signals to each other. This means that when either your gut or brain are under any amount of stress, they send those signals to each other.
The biochemical part of the gut-brain axis is formed by neurotransmitters like serotonin and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). Serotonin acts directly in the brain to regulate functions like mood, appetite, and even sleep cycles, and more than 90% of this neurotransmitter comes from the gut. Meanwhile, GABA is the neurotransmitter that helps keep your nervous system calm and reduces stress reactions throughout the body. While this neurotransmitter is usually produced in your brain, there are certain strains of probiotics that can produce GABA for your body in addition to what it makes naturally.
These two connections can both be disrupted by things like gut dysbiosis (imbalance) and strong feelings like anxiety. When these disruptions occur, both your gut and brain can be affected. For example, if the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, your body may not be producing as much serotonin or GABA as it needs, which can influence your mood and potentially cause you to feel more anxious. Similarly, when you experience strong feelings like anger or anxiety, your brain will send stress signals to your gut, which may alter the composition of gut bacteria and lead to nausea or other digestive discomforts.
How To Manage Your Gut-Brain Axis
So, does this mean that you are doomed to be prone to digestive discomfort or heightened feelings of anxiety for the rest of your life? Not necessarily.
There are small habits that you can incorporate into your daily life that can help keep your gut, brain, and the connection between them as healthy and comfortable as possible. Here are four of our favorites.
1. Manage Your Diet
You don’t have to make extreme changes to your diet, but it is important to recognize that the foods you choose to eat impact the health of both your gut and your brain. One of the most powerful changes you can make is incorporating more whole foods into your diet. Natural, nutrient-rich options like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help provide your whole body with the nourishment it needs to look and feel its best.
2. Stay ActiveYour gut health relies on your body engaging in physical activities throughout the day. But don’t worry, these workouts don’t have to be lengthy or intense. Of course, lifting weights or doing CrossFit every day are both great options, but if you would rather, you can explore low-impact options like walking, jogging, and hiking, which are equally as good for your gut.
3. Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress can not only contribute to feelings of anxiety, but it can also impact your gut health, but thankfully, stress is completely manageable. Finding simple ways to relax and keep your mind in the moment can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety throughout the day. Find a stress management activity like journaling or meditation that works for you and set aside time for it each day.
4. Take Gut Health Supplements
Gut-health supplements like probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes are simple and convenient ways to support your gut health. Probiotic supplements help to improve the composition of bacteria in your gut by seeding it with good bacteria while prebiotics serve as a nutritious meal for those beneficial strains of bacteria. Meanwhile, your body uses digestive enzymes to help digest the food you eat, so providing your body with an extra dose each day can help ensure there are plenty available to get to work after you eat.
Meet Essentials: The Ultimate Gut-Support Supplement
In order to stay as healthy as possible, your gut and brain need a little help, and you can give it just that with a supplement like Essentials.
This daily gut support supplement contains everything you need to support your gut and brain on a daily basis, and it’s all in a convenient daily pack. With probiotics, digestive enzymes, and the near-perfect superfood known as organic Wild Microalgae®, Essentials helps support your gut, nourish your brain, and keep you looking and feeling your best.
At New Earth we are on a mission to positively impact the health of every body and soul we come in contact with. We specialize in producing third-party certified, organic whole food supplements including a variety of probiotics, and digestive support. Our supplements feature a rare, yet highly nutritious superfood, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA). Also known as organic Wild Microalgae®, AFA is a unique type of microalgae that is available in many forms including tablets, capsules, and powders all designed to help you on your journey to holistic wellness. The best part? We offer a 90-day money-back risk-free guarantee on all of our products. Visit our website to learn more.
Tina “Your Gut Link” McDermott