The Connection Between Gut Health and Mental Health

The Connection Between Gut Health and Mental Health

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By Nancy Coulter-Parker

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As more research is unveiled about the microbiome, we are learning more about the gut-brain connection. If you think of having a “gut feeling” or “butterflies” in your stomach, then it’s not hard to understand that the gut is in fact thought to be our second brain.

“Studies are showing that 40 to 60 percent of your neurotransmitters (signals that help the nervous system communicate) are made in the gut,” explains Dr. Lela Altman, N.D., who runs a private practice in Seattle, and supervises digestive wellness services at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. 

“So, the big take-home is that a lot of us think stress in the brain is affecting your gut, but we are starting to think more that maybe it is going the other way. For people with anxiety and depression, when gut health improves, the psyche improves. And when the psyche improves, overall health improves.”

In fact, although we know the neurotransmitter serotonin can boost our mood, it hasn’t been understood until recently that our gut produces 80 to 90 percent of this neurotransmitter, as well as roughly 50 percent of dopamine (which also contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction). The health of our gut and microbiome has not only been associated with mood, anxiety and depression, it also is tied to inflammation, the strength of the immune system, and the onset of disease and chronic illness.

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