I felt in my gut, literally, that something was going on. I’d been slightly off for months, and not just in my belly. I passed my symptoms off as a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder or a few too many sleepless nights. I was surprised to learn that our gut can also affect our mood and mental health. Turns out, gut health is responsible for more than just digestive issues like bloating, IBS, and diarrhea.
You’ve probably heard the gut referred to as ‘the second brain.’ Sure the gut can’t do your taxes or write a novel, but it does more than we ever thought. 90% of serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut, so it makes sense that gut health can influence our mood.
Clinical psychologist Nicole McCance sees a lot of mood issues in her Toronto practice. “Almost all of these women suffering from things like anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, have digestive issues. In fact, more than half of my clients who are suffering from mood issues, particularly anxiety, have problems with their digestion.”
Yet, doctors often dismiss women’s symptoms, claiming it’s all in our heads. So we continue to live with the discomfort instead of fixing the problem with a probiotic, for example, as a starting point. “It’s important to be your own best doctor and listen to your body. Pay close attention to signs and symptoms, especially symptoms in your gut,” cautions Renew Life Spokesperson, Dr. Celik.
Digestive issues can cause a myriad of symptoms we might not associate with gut health. Fatigue, lack of sexual interest, weight gain, body image issues, anxiety, and irritability can often be symptoms that our gut needs attention.
In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to disrupt the delicate balance of microbes in the gut. Stress (hello, mom life), diet, and the environment can upset the balance of the good and bad bacteria in our gut. When your Microbiome balance is disturbed, you’re going to feel it one way or another.
“Very rarely do people associate how they feel with their nutrition and lifestyle habits. When they start to take the time to get curious and tap into their symptoms (the body’s only way of communicating with us) it becomes easier to connect the dots. They realize they play a part in how they are feeling and can make a choice to feel better by making different choices,” says nutritionist, Ciara Foy.
People claim that life balance is impossible, but achieving balance in your gut is absolutely possible, and the cornerstone of a healthy life.
Start by reducing stress by adding exercise, deep breathing or meditation to your daily routine.
Remove foods you suspect are causing problems—these might include but aren’t exclusive to: dairy, wheat, gluten, processed foods, and refined sugars. Your gut might love yogurt, but remember that flavoured yogurts are high in sugar.
Stock up on gut-friendly prebiotic-rich foods like onions, leeks, garlic, legumes, jicama, bananas, apples and apricots. Also include fermented foods like kimchi, tempeh, miso and beverages like kombucha in your diet. Increasing your daily fibre intake will help absorb toxins.
To reclaim your gut health you also need to reinoculate with multi-strain probiotics—beneficial live microbes that deliver health benefits when they’re consumed in adequate amounts. Probiotic supplements help restore optimal digestive health, and are required in order to bring back a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria.
The probiotic “delivery system” matters. Probiotic bacteria need to travel past the harsh environment of the stomach to arrive in your gut, alive. Acid-resistant capsules make this possible. This also means once-a-day capsules can be taken on an empty stomach or with food (or your morning coffee). It doesn’t make a difference either way.
If your main goal is to improve mood and manage stress, look for a probiotic supplement like Renew Life Mood + Stress. It’s formulated to support good digestive health and it contains the clinically studied probiotic strains needed to help moderate feelings of anxiety and reduce gastrointestinal discomfort related to mild to moderate stress.
For women prone to yeast infections and candida, it is important to manage microbial populations. Look for a probiotic containing Lactobacilli strains, like Ultimate Flora VS for Women to help maintain a balance of vaginal and urinary tract health.
Before you dismiss your “off mood” or bloated belly as just something you have to live with, remember that good mental and physical health begins in the gut.
This post is brought to you by RenewLife but the opinions are our own.