It’s no secret that our gut is a key player in our overall health, but you might be surprised to learn just how closely it’s linked to the rest of our body – from itchy eczema to brain fog, it could be your gut trying to tell you something. Let’s find out what that message is!
The intricate relationship between gut health and mental health is influenced by the "gut-brain axis”, with research proving a link between specific gut bacteria and mood-related brain regions. The study found that certain gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. Dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) has been associated with conditions like anxiety and depression. Here are a few of the elements involved in the powerful connection between the gut and your mental health:
Immune System Activation: Imbalances in the gut microbiota can lead to increased inflammation and activation of the immune system. Chronic inflammation can negatively impact the brain and contribute to conditions like depression and anxiety. The communication between the gut and the brain occurs through various pathways, including the immune system and the vagus nerve.
Neurotransmitter Production: The gut is home to a complex ecosystem of microorganisms known as the gut microbiota. These microbes have the ability to produce neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that transmit signals in the brain. For example, the majority of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, is actually produced in the gut. A balanced gut microbiota is crucial for maintaining optimal neurotransmitter production.
Microbiota-Brain Signalling: The gut microbiota can produce metabolites that influence brain function. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), for instance, are produced during the fermentation of dietary fibre by gut bacteria. SCFAs have been shown to have neuroprotective effects and can influence brain health. So, what we put on our plate can have massive sway over our moods and overall mental health.
Stress Response: The gut-brain axis also plays a role in the body's stress response. Stress can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota, leading to changes in gut permeability and the release of stress hormones. These changes can, in turn, affect mental wellbeing.
It's important to emphasise that while the gut-brain connection is fascinating, mental health is influenced by a complex interplay of factors, including genetics, environment and lifestyle. Taking care of your gut health through a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management and sufficient sleep can contribute to overall mental wellbeing. If you're experiencing mental health concerns, it's important to seek guidance from a qualified healthcare professional.
The gut-brain connection also extends to brain health and cognitive function. The gut microbiota influence factors that can impact whole-body inflammation and oxidative stress, so if things our out of whack in our gut, we can be at greater risk for cognitive degeneration, along with a host of other problems. Inflammation is a common factor in both gut health and brain health. Imbalances in the gut microbiota can lead to chronic inflammation, which can contribute to neuroinflammation in the brain. Neuroinflammation is believed to play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. A study published this year investigated the relationship between gut health and Alzheimer's disease, finding that specific gut bacteria were altered in people with Alzheimer's and that these alterations were associated with increased levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease.
Those short-chain fatty acids we mentioned earlier can have neuroprotective effects, as they’re known These to play a role in the function of brain cells and potentially protect against cognitive decline. A healthy gut contributes to maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, a protective barrier that separates the blood from the brain. Dysbiosis in the gut can lead to increased permeability of this barrier, allowing harmful substances to enter the brain and potentially contributing to cognitive issues. Gut hormones ghrelin and leptin are known for their role in regulating appetite and metabolism, but that’s not all they’re there for – these hormones can also have effects on brain function and cognition. An imbalanced gut microbiota can impact the production and signalling of these hormones, affecting brain health.
The gut-skin connection is an emerging area of research that suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiota can influence skin health, inflammation, and conditions like acne and eczema. The gut and the skin are both part of the body's immune system, and they communicate through the immune response. An imbalance in the gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, can trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation. This inflammation can manifest not only in the gut but also in the skin. Chronic inflammation is associated with conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis – so, while you’re busy looking at what’s happening with your skin, you may overlook what’s right under your nose. (Your gut!)
An unhealthy gut lining with increased permeability, also known as leaky gut, can allow harmful substances to pass into the bloodstream. These substances, like toxins and undigested food particles, can trigger an immune response and inflammation. This inflammation can contribute to skin problems. For example, individuals with conditions like acne and rosacea often have underlying gut issues that influence their skin health. The gut microbiota can indirectly influence the balance of the skin microbiota. When the gut microbiota is imbalanced, it can affect the immune response and lead to changes in the skin microbiota. Then, as something of a domino effect, these disruptions in the skin microbiota lead to skin issues and conditions that are plaguing more of us than ever – here in Australia, we’ve got a whopping 10-15% of the population living with eczema.
Incorporating a diet rich in fibre, prebiotics and probiotics can support a healthy gut microbiota and potentially improve skin health. However, it's important to note that while there is growing evidence of the gut-skin connection, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms involved and to develop targeted treatments for skin conditions based on gut health.
Need a little more support in eating a gut-healthy diet? That’s what we’re here for. Our ALL NEW 21-Day Gut Rebalance Program kicks off soon with delicious, nourishing recipes and exclusive expert content to support you on your way to better health. Whether it's constipation, bloating or even stress that's got you down, it could be your gut warning you that you're missing out on the gut-nourishing foods that help us thrive. We'll show you the ins and outs of healing, from the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics to the inflammation-busting foods you should be eating. Take a look at some of the exciting new recipes on the program:
- Pork Kimchi Dumplings
- Homemade Sourdough Bread
- Miso-Baked Salmon
- Tempeh Satay
- Chinese Beef + Broccoli
- Chocolate Chia Smoothie Bowl
And that's not even scratching the surface! We're selling out fast so don't wait, sign up now!