Did you know our gut bacteria can have a considerable impact on the way we feel, in particular, how anxious we are?
We are experiencing unpredictable times which in itself can make us feel anxious but there are also other factors at play. If you have ever experienced a stomach upset, this can change the diversity of your gut bacteria and if certain types of bacteria overgrow they can trigger anxiety.
Recent studies have confirmed that COVID-19 and long COVID do involve changes in gut bacteria diversity and anxiety is a known symptom of long COVID. Numerous studies have shown that by changing the diet and eating foods that promote the growth of healthy bacteria, anxiety levels can be greatly reduced.
So how does our gut bacteria influence our anxiety levels?
Increasing research confirms that our gut bacteria help regulate brain function through the gut-brain axis. The gut and brain are closely linked via the vagus nerve so if things aren’t right in the gut it will affect the brain and how you feel.
At least 70% of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and digestion, otherwise known as the happy hormone, is produced in the gut. If your gut bacteria are out of balance they can affect neurotransmitter production and reduce levels of serotonin and melatonin which can contribute to anxiousness. A diverse, healthy gut microbiome influences the production of serotonin, GABA, and dopamine that have calming and mood-enhancing effects.
What kind of eating regime helps the microbiome to flourish?
- remove any processed junk foods, sugar, white carbohydrates, and sweetened drinks these encourage the wrong kind of bacteria to overgrow
- replace these ‘foods’ with probiotic and prebiotic foods
- probiotic foods are fermented foods and drinks that contain live cultures/microorganisms
- prebiotic foods are those that feed a diverse range of healthy bacteria.
- fermented foods that support the gut include: live/Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir (fermented cows/goats milk), miso soup, kombucha tea, pickled vegetables, fermented soy (such as natto or tempeh), sourdough, aged cheeses, and kimchi (cabbage)
- prebiotics include: onions, garlic, leek, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, porridge oats, banana, root vegetables, organic apples, oat, wheat, or rice bran
- this eating regime is not suitable if you are sensitive to histamine. A lot of bacterial strains produce histamine so these foods are not recommended as they could make histamine-related symptoms worse.
If you’re willing to try fermented foods I’d recommend introducing one fermented food at a time and build up your intake gradually. If you can’t get on with fermented foods might be time to take a stool test and find out what’s going on in there.