Whether it’s caused by an interview or a first date, it’s an equally horrible feeling, and for some, it can be debilitating and seriously affect their well-being.
Conventionally, anxiety has been pathologised and diagnosed as a psychological disorder, but an increasing body of research now suggests anxiety may be also be caused by imbalances in your gut.
A study conducted by APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland found that the absence of gut bacteria in mice affected the microRNAs (miRNAs) regions of the brain that play a role in anxiety and depression. Similar findings were also echoed in an earlier study, that concluded people who experienced stress in early life may suffer from altered gut bacteria which causes anxiety when they are adults.
This makes a lot of sense considering our gut is known as our “second brain” and more technically referred to as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS consists of two thin layers with 100 million nerve cells covering your entire gastrointestinal tract all the way from the oesophagus to the rectum. Research has shown that irritation to the gastrointestinal system can trigger mood changes such as anxiety and depression.
These interesting scientific findings may mark a shift in how anxiety is treated. If the balance of bacteria in your gut really has the power to affect your mood and induce anxiety, treatment may move towards prescribing gut-health diets rather than the traditional pharmaceutical approach.
There are plenty of factors that play a role in causing an unbalanced gut, including our modern diets and lifestyles. World-renowned gut-health scientist Dr Liping Zhao, suggests that gut health and a strong constitution are inextricably linked – so in order to stay healthy, you have to take care of your gut microbiome.
The best way to keep your gut healthy and balanced is to eat a diet rich in fibre and prebiotics, which are nutrients that promote the growth of good bacteria. Supplementing your diet with a daily probiotic will also help to introduce good bacteria into your system and balance your gut flora.
Another great way is to incorporate probiotic-rich fermented foods into your diet, such as Kimchi, Kefir or Kombucha. If you are feeling brave, you can even brew your own Kombucha and have an unlimited supply of what the Ancient Chinese called the “immortal health elixir.”