Did you know that your guts (digestive system) can influence your mental health? Science has long understood the connection between our physical and our mental selves. This is because our brains and nervous system control the function of our body. If our brain cannot function correctly, it has a cascade effect on the rest of our bodies.
However, the connection goes both ways. Our bodies also send signals back to the brain. It tells our brain when there is something wrong and alerts the body to begin the healing process. This often results in feeling sick (when our bodies fight off a virus or illness) or having physical pain (when something is injured or not functioning correctly). It’s also how our bodies alert us to seek outside help for things we cannot fix on our own.
Some mental health care facilities, like Acera Health, believe very strongly in this mind-body connection. They practice holistic forms of treatment, as their goal is to improve someone’s physical health to help aid in the treatment of a mental health disorder. One such way is to improve someone’s gut health by educating others about the gut and mind connection.
The Gut and Mental Health Connection
Our physical and mental health are intertwined together. It’s especially true when it comes to our digestive system, also known as the “guts.” This includes our stomach and large/small intestines. The intestines, also known as the bowels, control our absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste.
There has been growing awareness about how the health of our gut influences our mental health. Several studies have identified specific communities of gut microorganisms and bacteria that are associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Receiving care that targets these organisms to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria can sometimes help with treatment-resistant mental health disorders. Research is still being done about the best way to treat this section of the body, but the results so far are very promising.
Our minds influence our guts physically as well. When we are stressed and anxious, it can cause contractions of the guts, which causes pain. It’s why one of the most common symptoms of anxiety-based disorders is digestive issues. Besides gut pain, it can also lead to indigestion, heartburn, nausea, and loose stools that can cause distress in an individual. It’s especially true if these problems become chronic and lessen the quality of someone’s life.
Because our guts are so sensitive, the pain often feels worse than other types of physical pain. You may have experienced it yourself when feeling nauseous and wishing you had pain anywhere else except in your stomach. The guts are also quite sensitive to strong emotions, including anger, sadness, and even elation. These can trigger symptoms in the gut as well.
Healthy Guts for Healthy Minds
To have a healthy mind, you need to have a healthy gut. There are several things a person can do to improve their digestive help, and in turn, their mental health. Places like Acera Health can help someone determine the best way to improve their health. Often this is done by seeing specialists, like nutritionists, that can better determine the exact needs of an individual. However, there are simple things that anyone can do to help improve their gut health.
Get proper sleep: When we sleep, our body takes that time to heal damaged parts of our body and to rest. If we don’t get proper sleep, we can’t heal. Lack of sleep or too much sleep can also cause problems for our mental health. Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for anyone’s physical and mental health.
Change your diet: Most people like to consume junk food. Junk food often tastes good, but lacks vital nutrients needed to be healthy. Expand your diet to include vegetables, beans, legumes, and fruit.
Consume prebiotics and probiotics: Prebiotics are foods that contain fuel for the microflora in the human intestine. Usually, these are found in foods high in fiber, like whole grains. These help the healthy bacteria in our bodies stay fed. Probiotics are found in fermented foods, like yogurt or kimchi. These contain live microorganisms, like lactobacilli, a bacteria that can benefit gut health. Consuming lactobacilli reduces the amount of Enterobacteriaceae in the gut, which can cause inflammation and other chronic conditions.
Stay hydrated: We need water to function. When we are dehydrated, it impacts our digestive system and can cause problems. Make sure to drink plenty of water daily. It helps to keep a dedicated reusable water bottle with you throughout the day.
Lower your levels of stress: Stress is very hard on the body, including your guts. Practice mindfulness techniques and self-care to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
See a professional: Seeing a specialist that deals with diet and gut health is important. They can help you change your diet or point you in the direction of supplements you may need to stay healthy. You may also need to be examined for problems such as intolerances or allergies that can wreak havoc on someone’s system. If you feel ill more often than not, it’s time to see a doctor.
Getting Help for Your Mental Health
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, it’s time to reach out for help. You can do this by contacting your local mental health care facility. There, they can walk you through the steps you need to take to find the help that you need.
Remember that there is no shame in asking for help. Everyone deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. You and those you love deserve to have their mental health taken seriously.
Most people may not think about it, but our digestive system (guts) is connected strongly with our mental health. This is known as the gut-brain connection. Holistic forms of mental health treatment often include gut health as part of the healing process. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we pay close attention to the full health of our clients. This involves, the mind, body, and spirit. By taking a holistic approach, we improve the health of all aspects of a person, not just their minds. Part of that is coaching someone in the ways of improving their gut health for a healthy mind. If you or those you love are struggling, don’t wait. Call (949) 647-4090 today.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.