That’s a fancy term for the vast variety of bacteria that live within your gut and body. Your intestines host more bacterial cells than human cells — some of them are good, while others can be harmful. The healthy bacteria are known as probiotics, which have been tied to a slew of health benefits.
That’s because your gut is a lot more integral to your overall health than you may think. Yes, it’s a key player in proper digestion, which helps your body absorb essential nutrients. But more and more research is starting to find that your microbiome may also support immune function, brain health, a healthy weight, and even your mood.
In fact, scientists are starting to find a link between your gut and serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So we delved into the science to find the connection, and spoke with the experts to find out what you can do about it.
How Does Your Gut Health Influence Your Emotions?
There is a connection between your gut and your brain. Scientists refer to it as the gut-brain axis: The neurotransmitters in your gut travel along your nerves and through your immune system to your brain, creating a two-way street of communication.
Mental and emotional stressors — like overdue bills or pre-interview anxiety — as well as biochemical stressors — say, eating a poor diet or avoiding exercise — can be communicated directly through your gut-brain axis, which explains why stress can make you feel sick.
Your microbiome produces a wide range of neurotransmitters, like the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, explains Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist in Salt Lake City. It also produces norepinephrine, which is linked to focus, and gaba, which makes you feel relaxed.