How your gut bacteria influences your mental well-being
Researchers believe that most of society’s health problems are lifestyle-driven. "Lifestyle" is a concept made up of a culmination of different factors, such as nutrition, behaviour, stress, physical activity, working habits, smoking and alcohol consumption. All of which affect you via the microorganisms living within your body.
The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, a community of microorganisms collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. It plays a crucial role in various aspects of your health, including digestion, immunity, and metabolism. The connection between gut bacteria and mental well-being is a burgeoning area of research known as the "gut-brain axis". While a complex and evolving field, this article gives an overview of how your gut microbiome can influence your mental health.
Communication with the brain
When you were a developing foetus, your gut and brain formed from the same fetal tissue, making them inextricably linked for the rest of your life through the gut-brain axis. It’s amazing to know that it’s within your gut that your body makes 95% of your serotonin, and synthesises about 50% of the dopamine in your body. Additionally, your gut converts about 20% of your thyroid hormone.
It is, of course, the thyroid gland that produces hormones that regulate your body's metabolic rate, growth, and development. It also plays a role in controlling your heart, muscle and digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance.
Another name for the bidirectional pathway of communication between your gut and brain is the vagus nerve. Stress negatively affects the vagus nerve, causing harm to the gastrointestinal tract and to the gut microbes. It, therefore, plays an important role in disorders of the gut, such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for instigating behavioural changes. Hypnotherapy promotes healthier choices for individuals struggling with dietary choices or habits that impact their gut health negatively. It does this by addressing the subconscious drivers behind these behaviours. Whether it's curbing unhealthy food cravings or promoting a desire for more nutritious options, hypnotherapy can be a guiding force.
As previously mentioned, gut bacteria can produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These neurotransmitters are vital for regulating your mood, emotions, and mental well-being. Changes in the production of these neurotransmitters by gut bacteria can influence mood and behaviour. When your gut bacteria go out of whack, your mood follows.
Inflammation and immunity
The gut microbiome regulates inflammation and immune responses. Approximately 70% of your body’s immune cells live in the gut, and therefore, what you eat directly influences your immune system. Your immune system creates different proteins and amino acids, which are different chemical messengers that fight bacteria and heal wounds.
Inflammation in a day-to-day sense is swelling, the rushing of healing nutrients and white blood cells to an area to repair it. Inflammation is a problem when it becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation causes many health problems, autoimmune diseases, metabolic problems, cancer, heart disease and mental health issues. Autoimmune conditions are directly caused by too much inflammation, the opposite makes someone immunosuppressed. An imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to chronic inflammation, and therefore mental health issues.
Research suggests the gut microbiome can influence the body's response to stress. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to changes in gut permeability and potentially contributing to the development of stress-related conditions.
Hypnotherapy soothes the stormy seas of stress and anxiety. In this state of deep focus, cortisol levels drop, and the sympathetic nervous system takes a backseat to its parasympathetic counterpart. This shift from "fight or flight" to "rest and digest" has a profound impact on the gut. The lower stress levels lead to a healthier gut microbiome, helping maintain the delicate balance of bacteria in the digestive tract.
Dysbiosis is an imbalance in the gut microbiome, characterised by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a reduction in beneficial bacteria. Dysbiosis has been associated with a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and even neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Psychobiotics are probiotics that contain beneficial bacteria known to have a positive impact on mental health. Some studies suggest that certain probiotic strains may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Diet and lifestyle
Diet and lifestyle factors, such as a high-sugar diet, can negatively affect the gut microbiome, potentially contributing to mental health issues. On the other hand, a diet rich in fibre and healthy fats can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for instigating behavioural changes.
Hypnotherapy can promote healthier choices by addressing the unconscious drivers behind these behaviours for individuals struggling with dietary choices or habits that impact their gut health negatively. Whether it's curbing unhealthy food cravings or promoting a desire for more nutritious options, hypnotherapy can be a guiding force.
It's important to note that the relationship between the gut microbiome and mental health is highly individualised. What works for one person may not work for another, and factors like genetics, diet, and environmental exposures all play a role.
If you want to learn more about the gut-brain axis and how hypnotherapy can help you to make healthy lifestyle changes, I'd love to hear from you. Please visit my profile to read more about my approach and how I may be able to help you.