Is a Funky Gut Impacting Your Mood? Exploring the Gut-Brain Connection

While the saying “you are what you eat” can sound a little melodramatic, there is new proof that what you eat contributes to who you are as a person. Thanks to the nuanced connections between your gut and your brain, your diet impacts your emotions as well as your health.

Dr. Mark Hyman recently sat down with mindbodygreen to chat about the gut-brain connection and how our digestive system contributes to mental health. Here’s what he had to say:

An irritable gut = an irritable brain

So, what is the gut-brain connection? After decades of seeing unhealthy guts associated with an array of mood, personality, and physiological conditions, Dr. Hyman began to realize how connected our gut health is to our mental and physical wellbeing. He started giving this symbiotic relationship a closer look—and his findings support his hypothesis.

Depression cleared up by a round of heavy antibiotics. Sleep issues associated with irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. Children with autism changing diet and then learning how to better communicate. These and other examples showed a clear relationship between the gut and brain.

How the bacteria in your gut can impact your brain

Your digestive tract is teeming with bacteria. It may sound alarming, but these little guys—known as your microbiome—are instrumental to your digestion and overall health. A flourishing colony of good bacteria is necessary and beneficial. It’s when bad bacteria sets up shop that problems can occur.

This is where the brain comes into play. If your digestive system is not functioning properly, it takes a toll on cognitive function—and your memory, mood, emotions, behavior, and attention can all be impacted by this poor communication between the gut and brain.

Watch Dr. Hyman’s full interview to learn more about the gut-brain connection »

How can I improve my gut health?

Now that you have a general idea of how the health of your gut can impact your brain, you may be wondering what you can do about it.

There are a number of ways you can support a healthy gut—here are some tips to consider.

Change your diet:

One of the main reasons for poor gut health comes down to what you eat, namely ingredients we struggle to process naturally. Sugar, alcohol, and processed foods all increase yeast production, while foods high in fiber help your gut thrive. It’s important to eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed vegetables.

Additionally, food allergies and sensitivities can cause an array of issues. Talk with a doctor to make sure you’re not allergic to certain items such as dairy or gluten, as they could be triggering inflammatory issues in your body.

Take a look in your medicine cabinet:

Certain medications can cause a disruption in the gut’s homeostasis: antibiotics, steroids, and birth control can all cause an overgrowth of yeast. While antibiotics and prescription meds are necessary and helpful when correctly prescribed, talk with your doctor about how best to compensate for their effects on your gut.

Learn to relax:

When life feels overwhelming, it can dramatically impact your mind and body, including your gut. If you’re struggling to manage stress and anxiety, try a proven option such as yoga, meditation, or scheduling weekly self-care time. That being said, if your stress and anxiety are out of control or you are suffering, reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional; they are there to help!

We hope this information is helpful and that you enjoyed learning more about the gut and brain connection.

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