What The Gut
The gut is an incredible organ. Let's face it, it gets a bad wrap because it can be somewhat of an embarrassing organ... but it's actually an incredibly sophisticated, complex part of our biology that has more impact on our health than we think. We all know that the gut is responsible for digestion, assimilation and excretion. However, researchers are uncovering an increasingly large amount of evidence that reveals the strong influence our gut (and it's contents) has on mood, emotion, and cognition.
Swimming Mice, Antibiotics & Depression:
Mice with depression do not swim for long. They generally give up and freeze, until they sink and need to be saved (this is because they lack motivation and driving impulses to survive and are more sensitive to stress). About 5 years ago, scientists wondered if you could alter the behaviour of depressed, anxious mice by altering their gut bacteria. The answer was you could. Depressed mice who were implanted with a type of good bacteria swam for longer than those without the bacteria. This led to more research. Two types of mice - one happy and then one sad, depressed & anxious, were given antibiotics to wipe out their gut flora. The scientists then swapped their bacteria. What is amazing is that the mice actually took on the behaviour of the host bacteria, so the happy mice became more anxious and depressed and vice versa. This is just the tip of the iceberg. What's becoming clear is that happiness, stress, anxiety, motivation, depression and a host of other behaviours can be helped or hindered by the gut.
The Gut, Anxiety & Stress
When the gut is irritated, we are not happy campers. Brain activity is actually altered when the gut is stressed, whether it's psychological stress or physical stress (from inflammation or bacteria for example). Psychological stress has a profound impact on the gut, and prolonged amounts of stress have been shown to completely alter how the gut works. It compensates by turning down blood flow, mucous production (essential to help protect the walls of the gut), digestion and certain types of signalling that have to do with mood. Conversely, meditation has been shown to positively influence gut function, especially for those with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Antibiotics & Mood
Antibiotics wipe out bacteria - good and bad. And while the body does have an ability to replenish it's own gut bacteria, there is often a great imbalance in which ones come back. It's super common to feel slightly depressed and lack lustre after we've been ill, and this is a contributing factor. Giving the gut some love after a course of antibiotics, any kind of a gut bug or gastric inflammation is essential (and one of the core focuses of naturopathic medicine). If you've suffered recently, ensure you try taking a good quality probiotic to help get your guts environment thriving.
Quick Guide To Good Gut Care:
Include probiotics, prebiotic foods & fibre - these are essential for gut health.
Try to eat in a calming environment - stress and digestion are not friends.
If you lead a high stress lifestyle - meditation or some kind of mindfulness can help boost your gut and your ability to stay positive.
Nutrition is key - think of what you're eating in relation to your gut. Alcohol, high amounts of sugar, processed foods and inflammatory foods can have a far greater effect on your mood than you may realise.
Always, always take care after you've had a course of antibiotics. Probiotics, prebiotics, good fibre and nourishing food needs to be the focus for at lest 2 weeks after.
Rhian or ‘The Boss’ as we like to call her, is not only a loving instructor at Psycle, community champion but also happens to be CEO. A former Canadian national athlete, world renowned nutritionist and lifestyle guru, Rhian knows how to help you become the healthiest and happiest version of yourself and uses her classes to help you get there. Her classes are graceful yet high intensity and set to infectious playlists. She will help motivate, inspire and most importantly challenge you to reach for what you want and never stop until you get there.