Your gut is a lot more integral to your overall health than you may think.

Microbiome – the fancy term for the variety of bacteria that live within your gut and body – helps your body digest and absorb essential nutrients. But not only that, more and more research is starting to find that your microbiome may also support your immune system, your weight and, even your mood.

Scientists are starting to find a link between your gut and serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

How can your gut health be affecting your mental health?

There is a connection between your gut and your brain. Scientists refer to it as the gut-brain axis: the neurotransmitters in your gut travel along your nerves and through your immune system, to your brain, creating a two-way street of communication.

This explains why some stressors or anxiety can make you feel sick – it is communicated directly through your gut-brain axis.

Your microbiome produces a wide range of neurotransmitters, like the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.

These reach the brain via the bloodstream, and can reduce inflammation – which has been shown to be a contributory factor in certain mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.

According to research published in JAMA Psychiatry, brain inflammation was 30 percent higher in people diagnosed with clinical depression.

An unhealthy gut, can mean a decreased production of antioxidant chemicals that reduce inflammation and sustain chemical stability in the brain. These changes can contribute to certain signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Improving your diet might improve your headspace.

Recent studies show that loading up on fermented foods and drinks — like yogurt, kombucha, or sauerkraut — can lead to psychological improvements.

Other research suggests that taking a probiotic supplement with specific strains of bacteria may even reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect a carton of yogurt to cure your depression overnight. Slow and steady changes to your diet may help make a difference over time.

Don’t forget your fiber: eating enough will help the healthy bacteria in your gut thrive.

Happier gut, happier you.

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