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The Hidden Culprit Behind Anxiety And Depression Might Be In Your Gut

Feeling depressed or anxious? It might be a gut flora imbalance, one of the main hidden culprits that leads to anxiety.

There are times when you feel restless, anxious, even a tad depressed, and are unable to pinpoint the root cause of this anxiety. But did you know, the bad bacteria housed in your gut plays a huge role in contributing to this anxiety? In recent years, neuroscientists have been studying the link between the brain and bacteria in the gut, and there is enough evidence to prove that your gut health and mental health have a close connection.

What is gut flora?

The gut is made up of both good and bad bacteria. They play an important role in digestion, and are also responsible for the overall health of a person. Healthy or good bacteria keep the tummy strong, and ensure that the intestinal tract is primed for any trouble. If there are not enough good bacteria in your gut, you could get ulcers and that, in turn, could lead to digestive issues, such as food that cannot be broken down passing into the bloodstream and disrupting the body's normal functioning.

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The brain link 

Recent research suggests that this bacteria actually influences, and even changes, your brain chemistry and overall behaviour patterns. It is a known fact that those who have digestive issues, or suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the like are prone to be more anxious than others. There is also evidence to suggest that if you add good bacteria to your diet in the form of probiotics, anxiety levels reduce. While preliminary studies have focused on conducting these studies on mice, there is now enough evidence to suggest that the same applies to humans as well. In the case of mice, when the vagus nerve, which connects the stomach to the brain, was severed, anxiety levels came down drastically, further cementing the belief that the two are closely linked.

Influencing production of the happy hormone 

It has been noted that microbes and bacteria that are housed in the gut influence production of both serotonin and dopamine. Since more than 90 per cent of the serotonin in our body is found in the gut, and is what keeps you happy and healthy, this neurotransmitter’s role in mental health is crucial. A 2014 study used rats, who exhibited signs of depression, to study the role of probiotics in making the gut whole again, and in turn, influencing the happiness quotient. When given a strain of probiotics, these rats were less anxious and depressed.

Role of probiotics 

Probiotics are essentially good bacteria, and are often used to combat poor intestinal health. A study, conducted at UCLA in 2016, found that women who ate yoghurt and other foods with similar probiotics almost every day, had an ‘altered brain function in both a resting state and when performing an emotion-recognition task’. So while the evidence is still sketchy, more and more studies are pointing towards the connection between the two. So give probiotics a thumbs up, cultivate good bacteria, and watch your mood lift!

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