Heal Anxiety by Healing Your Gut?
The way we look at mental health is changing, slowly but surely. We’re used to seeing something like anxiety being handled with a prescription for anxiety medication and no further investigation (except maybe a quick test for thyroid function and anemia status). Anxiety medication can be incredibly valuable for so many people. And sometimes further investigations don’t yield any results. But it’s still important that we consider and rule out factors that could be contributing to anxiety. As a mental health focused naturopathic doctor, this is my mission.
Your gut health can impact your mental health. If you’re skeptical, I’ll tell you now that this concept is no longer in the realm of fringe science or pseudoscience. There’s an abundance of research behind it. It’s hard to ignore the patterns that we’re seeing. Many people with gut disorders like IBS, IBD, GERD and h. pylori also experience anxiety. Stress and anxiety can certainly do strange things to your gut. But the relationship goes the other way as well. Gut disorders can upset your mental health. And I mean above and beyond the anxiety that comes with worrying about your gut struggles.
The nervous system that governs your gut (the enteric nervous system) is deeply connected to other aspects of your nervous system. Fascinating discoveries are being made about how gut health impacts brain and mental health. Inflammation in the gut has been correlated with inflammation in the rest of the nervous system including the brain. The type of bacteria in the gut may be able to alter behaviour according to some studies. Good gut bacteria has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by altering neurotransmitter and hormone activity. Research on the role that nutrition plays in gut health and therefore mental health is also yielding promising findings.
Poor gut health is just one of many underlying causes to consider in anxiety cases. Sifting through and treating the possible underlying causes of your anxiety is my definition of holistic medicine. It takes effort, it takes time and it takes some real detective work but every patient with anxiety deserves this quality of care.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].