The gut-brain axis is an intricate communication network involving the nervous system, immune system and neurotransmitters.
Your gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in these interactions, producing numerous substances that may impact mood.
People with mental health conditions often lack certain types of gut bacteria, leading to symptoms like depression and anxiety. Fecal microbiota transplants have also been proven to improve these symptoms.
The nervous system in your gut sends messages to the brain which may lead to feelings of anxiety or depression, as well as mood swings. Eating foods beneficial for digestion such as sweet potatoes, spinach and beets, along with plenty of fiber-rich whole grains, can help alleviate these symptoms.
Some medical conditions, such as heart, lung or thyroid issues, can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Speak to your doctor about getting a physical exam to rule out any underlying medical causes for these issues.
Genetics, personality traits and life experiences have been known to increase your risk for anxiety disorder. Examples include losing a parent in early childhood or caring for someone with a chronic health condition.
Feelings of anxiety may be exaggerated in response to an initial trigger or stressor, leading to physical symptoms like elevated blood pressure and nausea. These signs and symptoms could develop into an anxiety disorder which is difficult to manage. Medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques may all be useful in managing these feelings of anxiety.
It is becoming increasingly evident how gut health impacts mental wellbeing. Studies on animals have demonstrated that changes to the microbiome and inflammation in the gut can have detrimental effects on the brain, leading to symptoms like anxiety or depression.
Scientists have also noted the role diet plays in gut-related mood disorders. A balanced diet that contains prebiotics (plant fibers) helps the gut bacteria flourish and strengthens the immune system.
Gut bacteria play an integral role in producing neurotransmitters like serotonin and glutamate, which send and receive signals between neurons in the brain to control mood.
Researchers have long speculated that the gut microbiome may play a role in mental health. Yet the connection between gut bacterial imbalances and depression is only now beginning to be explored among humans.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have a devastating impact on the family unit. Therefore, it’s essential to get diagnosed and find treatment that meets the individual’s needs, those of their family, and even their school.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that may cause issues at home, school or with friends. Signs may be mild, moderate or severe depending on the individual.
A primary care doctor, psychiatrist or other mental health professional can diagnose ADHD. They will perform a physical exam, review symptoms and history, as well as inquire about education and environment of the patient.
According to the DSM-5, professionals must diagnose ADHD by evaluating a person’s symptoms and behaviors. They then assign an amount of severity: “mild,” “moderate” or “severe.”
People with ADHD typically struggle to focus, control their impulsive behavior and regulate sleep patterns. Furthermore, they tend to be fidgety or overactive. Furthermore, they may have trouble focusing on tasks, following instructions and forming healthy interpersonal relationships.
The gut is not only responsible for digestion and nutrient absorption; it also communicates with the brain about energy levels and mood. When these two systems become imbalanced, mental health may suffer as a result.
Autism, otherwise known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts how people communicate and relate to others. While symptoms may differ from person to person, common traits include difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors and self-stimulatory behaviors.
Some of these behaviors may be harmless, but others raise alarm. Signs may include emotional outbursts or self-injurious habits like head banging and hair pulling.
Research is beginning to illuminate the connection between mental health and gut health, as an imbalanced microbiome can lead to various ailments. Constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea are all signs of an unhealthy microbiome; additionally, changes in skin or bad breath could indicate that bacteria are out of balance as well.