It’s clear that certain emotions can trigger a digestive response, but there is also speculation that the reverse may also be true – conditions in your gut may influence how you feel.
Studies in mice have suggested that introducing certain strains of bacteria into the digestive tract (specifically, two called lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) can reduce “anxiety-like” behavior in the mice. [i]
The thinking is that these two strains of bacteria (commonly found in yogurt ) alter the bacterial makeup in the gut in such a way that there is an effect on brain chemistry – perhaps by stimulating the production of certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that play a key role in determining mood.
Whether the same holds true for humans is yet to be seen, but there is no question that your brain and gut are well connected – so it makes sense that keeping your digestive system in tip-top shape is vital to your sense of well-being.
The steps you take to keep yourself healthy are the same ones that promote digestive health, too. A diet that includes plenty of fiber from colourful fruits and vegetables and whole grains, adequate hydration, a source of probiotics and regular exercise are all key factors. Fibers help promote regularity (which could affect your mood!), and certain fibers also promote the growth of the “good” bacteria in your microbiome.
Taking time to enjoy your meals helps, too. When you slow down you may eat less food, and you’ll probably be less stressed – which means you’ll be sending signals to ‘both’ your brains. When you eat more slowly, it allows time for your gut to tell your brain that you’re full – and for your brain to tell you that you’re more relaxed, too.