Here’s what registered dietitian and Everlywell advisor, Nicole Lindel, had to say about gut health and mental health.
In the words of Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.” Mental health disorders are no exception. Research is currently underway to see if gastrointestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and gut are intimately connected. In fact, did you know more than 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut?
With more research coming out on the gut microbiome, we are learning more and more about the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is the physical and chemical interaction between your gut and brain.
Many patients with IBS also have anxiety and depression. While it is important to explore dietary triggers, it is also important to seek out mental health counseling, as the role of stress and emotion may be a factor to consider.
The tricky part with IBS and diet, is that many patients already have anxiety around food and what that food may do to their gastrointestinal symptoms. It is a vicious cycle where stress and anxiety can exacerbate symptoms, and vice versa! Hence why many studies have found that psychological approaches, such as cognitive based therapy, resulted in greater improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms.
What are some of the best ways to support gut health? Check out these tips.
Add variety to your diet. Incorporate different foods to diversify your gut microbiome
Focus on increasing whole foods. For example, try incorporating more fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains into your diet.
Seek out a mental health counselor. If you are struggling with IBS and/or an underlying mental illness, consider seeking professional support. In addition to working with a registered dietitian to determine specific food triggers, it may also be important to work on mental health given what we are learning about the gut-brain axis.
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