4 Ways To Combat Poor Gut Health to Help Ease Depression & Anxiety

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Keeping the good bacteria growing in your gut leads to a longer, healthy and anxiety free life.

I experienced many gut issues when I was very young — mainly due to my food allergies and intolerances. 

I would eat something, then set off a cascade of negative side effects, from stomach cramps to diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or prevent me from eating. This would also affect my mental health and well-being – although, at the time, I didn’t realise it.

For years I was undiagnosed for irritable bowel syndrome, and generally thought that I was born with poor gut health and just had to live with it.

It is no secret that our gut plays an essential role in our overall health. 

However, did you know our gut health also significantly impacts our mental well-being? Studies have shown that poor gut health can magnify depression and anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle of negative emotions and physical symptoms. 

This article will explore the link between gut and mental health and provide practical tips for healing your gut to combat depression and anxiety.

How the Gut and Brain Interact

The gut and the brain are connected through a complex network of nerves, hormones, and neurotransmitters. 

Our gut has more nerve cells than our spinal cord, and certain receptors in our stomach activate when we eat a meal, sending a message to the brain that we are full. 

Furthermore, trillions of microbiota reside in our gut, impacting many things, including digestion, inflammation, and producing the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin is a crucial neurotransmitter for regulating mood, and 95% of it is made in our gut, not the brain. 

When our gut bacteria are fed the nutrients they need, they send signals to the brain, elevating our mood and making us happy. 

Conversely, poor gut health can inhibit this signal from getting to our brain, leading to chronic levels of inflammation and a host of physical and mental symptoms.

The Impact of Poor Gut Health on Mental Health

High levels of inflammation caused by dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria, can affect our brain functioning and moods, leading to irritability and joint inflammation. 

In addition, the gut plays a significant role in our immune system, with 70% of immune activity occurring inside our gut. When our gut is healthy, we are also healthy, but when inflammation levels are high, our immune system is compromised, making us more susceptible to illness.

One of the inflammatory responses caused by poor gut health is a leaky gut, which creates small holes in our gut lining, allowing toxins to leak into our bloodstream. 

These toxins stop our brain from activating the immune system, making us susceptible to colds, flu, and even more severe diseases. Furthermore, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are often triggered by anxiety or depression, leading to a combination of negative impacts on our quality of life and gut function.

What Can We Eat to Combat Poor Gut Health?

Fortunately, we have some control over our gut health by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Eating whole foods and healthy plants that feed the good bacteria in our gut is one of the best ways to improve our gut functioning while minimizing inflammation. Some of the best foods to eat daily are dietary fibre from plant foods, which help to boost the numbers of good bacteria in our gut continually.

Plants have a range of probiotics and prebiotics that help us along the way.

Some of the most powerful good gut bacteria-feeding fruits and veggies include Greek or coconut yogurt, lentils, kiwis, walnuts, blueberries, sauerkraut, pears, and chia seeds. Incorporating these foods into our daily diet can help improve our gut health, boost our mood, and limit inflammation.

Here are some key ways to help heal your gut health

One: The Importance of Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that feed the probiotics and promote their growth. Including probiotics and prebiotics in our diet is essential for maintaining a healthy gut.

Foods high in probiotics include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso. These foods are rich in beneficial bacteria that can help to improve gut health and boost our immune system. In addition, foods that are high in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, asparagus, and oats. Including these foods in our diet can help to feed the probiotics in our gut and promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Two: The Role of Stress in Gut Health

Stress can have a significant impact on our gut health. When stressed, our body releases cortisol, damaging our gut lining and disrupting our gut microbiome. 

Chronic stress can lead to inflammation in the gut, contributing to a range of gut-related health issues.

To reduce stress, we can engage in activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises or take a break from work and do something we enjoy. Sleeping is crucial for reducing stress levels and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Three: Supplements for Gut Health

In addition to incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into our diet, certain supplements can also help to support our gut health. For example, omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, flaxseeds, and chia seeds have been shown to reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Another supplement to consider is L-glutamine, an amino acid that plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the gut lining. L-glutamine has been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healing of the gut lining.

Four: Proper Hydration for Gut Health

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut. Water helps to flush out toxins and waste products from our gut, and it also helps to keep our gut lining healthy and hydrated.

In addition to drinking plenty of water, we can also consume other hydrating foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery. These foods are rich in water and electrolytes, which can help to keep our gut healthy and hydrated.

Regular physical activity has been shown to increase diversity in the gut microbiome.

In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that exercise can increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The study also found that exercise can reduce markers of inflammation in the gut, suggesting that regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and reduce gut-related health issues.

Another study published in the journal Gut Microbes found that endurance exercise, such as running, can increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The study also found that the gut microbiome of endurance athletes was more diverse than sedentary individuals.

In addition to endurance exercise, strength training has also been shown to benefit gut health. A study published in the journal PLOS One found that resistance exercise can improve gut microbiota diversity and reduce markers of inflammation in the gut.

Regular physical activity in our daily routine can help promote a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week for optimal health.

Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Vigorous-intensity exercise includes running, high-intensity interval training, or playing sports like basketball or soccer. Finding an exercise routine that works for you and sticking to it can help to improve gut health and overall well-being.

Research Supporting the Gut-Brain Connection

Numerous studies have demonstrated the link between gut health and mental health. 

For example, a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that probiotics can positively impact depression and anxiety symptoms. Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, was associated with a lower risk of depression.

Furthermore, a study published in the journal Gut Microbes found that people with depression had different gut microbiota than those without depression. The researchers concluded that gut microbiota may be a potential target for the treatment of depression.

Do you have a leaky gut?

Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the gut lining becomes damaged, allowing toxins, bacteria, and other substances to leak into the bloodstream. 

This can trigger an immune response and lead to various symptoms, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, fatigue, and brain fog.

The causes of leaky gut are unclear, but several factors can contribute to its development. These include a poor diet, chronic stress, medications like antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and certain health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease.

Addressing the underlying causes and promoting gut healing to heal leaky gut is essential. Here are some steps that can help:

  1. Eliminate Trigger Foods: Eliminating trigger foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healing.
  2. Incorporate Gut-Healing Foods: Consuming foods that support gut healing, such as bone broth, fermented foods, and leafy greens, can help to restore the integrity of the gut lining.
  3. Consider Supplementation: Certain supplements can help to support gut healing, such as digestive enzymes, L-glutamine, and probiotics.
  4. Reduce Stress: Chronic stress can contribute to developing a leaky gut. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help to reduce stress levels and promote gut healing.
  5. Work with a Healthcare Provider: If you suspect a leaky gut, it is important to work with a healthcare provider to address any underlying health issues and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Research suggests that certain dietary changes and supplements can help to improve the leaky gut. 

For example, a study published in the journal Nutrients found that supplementation with L-glutamine can help to reduce intestinal permeability and improve gut health.

Another study published in the journal Nutrients found that a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates certain fermentable carbohydrates, can help reduce leaky gut symptoms and improve gut function in individuals with IBS.

In conclusion, a leaky gut can be challenging to manage, but making dietary and lifestyle changes and working with a healthcare provider can help improve gut health and reduce symptoms.

Key Summary of the most significant Gut-Healing Methods

Improving our gut health requires daily action, but it’s easier than you might think. 

Here are some key gut-healing methods to consider:

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in fibre and whole foods to feed the good bacteria in our gut.
  • Incorporate fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt into your diet to add probiotics to your gut.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your gut hydrated and healthy.
  • Reduce stress by engaging in meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Get enough sleep to allow your body to repair and restore itself, including your gut.
  • Exercise regularly to promote a healthy gut and reduce inflammation.
  • Consider taking a high-quality probiotic supplement to support your gut health.
  • Avoid processed and high-sugar foods that can damage your gut and increase inflammation.
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners, which can disrupt your gut microbiome.
  • Consider working with a healthcare provider to address underlying gut health issues impacting your mental health.


Our gut health and mental well-being are significant in our overall health. 

Poor gut health can magnify depression and anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle of negative emotions and physical symptoms. 

Fortunately, we can improve our gut health by eating a balanced diet rich in fibre and whole foods, incorporating fermented foods into our diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise. 

Taking care of our gut health can boost our mood, limit inflammation, and improve our overall quality of life.

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