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Here's How Gut Health and Anxiety Are Connected & What To Do About It

✎ Written by: Veronica Silver ✓ Fact-checked by: Kaija Sander, Ph.D.

We use the expressions “gut-wrenching” or “butterflies in the stomach” for a reason – our gastrointestinal system (our gut) is sensitive to emotions. So the next time you say you’re sick to your stomach, know that you mean that quite literally because our emotional state can trigger stomach issues and vice versa.

So why is our gut health so important and what does it have to do with anxiety? Can the gut cause anxiety? In this article we’ll explore these questions by addressing:

  1. The Importance of Gut Health

  2. The Gut-Brain Axis

  3. Tips to Improve Gut Health

  4. Tips to Manage Anxiety

The Importance of Gut Health

Our general health is important to keep our bodies running in an optimal state. All body parts work together to achieve the goal of good overall health and performance. Just like the brain needs good mental well-being to stay healthy and function well, and the heart needs good cardio exercises for optimal heart health, your gut is the same.

Your body contains trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome. These microbes are found mostly in the intestines and each play a different role in your body. It sounds a bit unsettling, trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi inhabiting your body, but these microbes are actually extremely important to your physical and mental health.

They help to play a role in digesting, controlling the immune system, and even affecting brain function by producing chemicals that can influence your mood. These good bacteria also help to control the bad bacteria that might cause health problems by making it more difficult for bad bacteria to grow. The good bacteria do this by crowding the bad bacteria out and breaking down toxins that can produce the bad bacteria.

Poor gut health can lead to:

Bloating and inflammation: Problems like bloating and inflammation in the gut often lead to issues like pain, cramping, constipation, and/or diarrhea. This may be an indication that the bacteria in your gut is not breaking down foods the way they should or functioning properly.

Unintentional fluctuations in weight: Poor gut health may be the reason for any unintentional weight gain or loss. This is because gut bacteria affect how food is broken down and how many calories are extracted from the food. Thus if you have poor gut health, you may have less control over your weight.