Gut health and anxiety: Link and ways to manage

Numerous studies suggest a bidirectional relationship between a person’s gut and mental health. Both diet and probiotics may help people improve their mental health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health concern in the United States. Digestive diseases are also a concern. 100 millionAnnual ambulatory visits to the hospital.

Research exploring whether anxiety and gut disorders are linked has focused on the “gut-brain axis,” a complex system of communication between the two organs, and the role of microorganisms in people’s gastrointestinal tract.

This article discusses the relationship between anxiety and gut health, anxiety symptoms and how to manage anxiety and gut well-being.

The gut, also known as the gastrointestinal system (GI), is a group of organs and nerves that interact with each other. enable food digestion. The brain is directly connected with the GI via the central nervous system (CNS). Signals flow between the two to regulate certain aspects of digestion.

Learn more about digestion.

The GI lining contains another control hub, the enteric nerve system (ENS). The ENS contains 100 million nerve cell and can operate independently of the brain. Scientists believe it may play a role in the relationship between the gut and a person’s state of mental health.

According to a 2015 reviewThe gut-brain axis is where the brain and ENS communicate to control gastrointestinal processes. This links cognitive and emotional function centers in brain with GI mechanisms. Researchers believe this communication system could affect motivation and higher cognitive function.

Experts believe that the ENS may also trigger major emotional shifts for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS, and other digestive disorders. Irritation in your GI could send signals to your CNS that can trigger mood changes.

How does gut health impact anxiety?

Numerous studies have examined the relationship between anxiety and gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is a system of microorganisms in a person’s GI, comprisingThe body requires trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi to maintain optimal health.

The gut microbiota is crucial in regulating the immune system, as well as converting food into energy. Scientists believe that changes in the microbiota may affect these functions and can also impact mental health.

A 2019 review suggests that stress and depression can reshape the gut microbiota’s composition through stress hormones, inflammation, and autonomic alterations. The gut microbiota responds to stress by releasing neurohormones, toxins and metabolites that can alter eating habits and moods.

A 2017 reviewThis relationship is further explored. It appears that inflammation in GI places stress upon microbiota by releasing cytokines and neurotransmitters. Research suggests that anxiety and depression symptoms are directly related to elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals.

Learn more about inflammation.

IBS, a GI disorder characterized by inflammation and possible microbiota alterations has a co-occurrence rate of between 44 and 88%With anxiety and depression. This relationship may be causal. More research is needed.

The above 2015 reviewRefer to studies done on animals that have shown that microbiota has an impact on stress reactivity and anxiety-like behavior. According to a 2021 review, gut microbiota plays a role in the development and function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA coordinates a person’s adaptive stress response, and a dysfunctional HPA is often associated with anxiety and depressive disorders.

Scientists believe that gut microbiota regulates the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Everyone experiences some anxiety. An anxiety disorder is when a person is constantly worried and unable to function in their daily lives.

According to the NAMIAnxiety disorders can be described as a collection of related conditions that each have their own symptoms. People with anxiety disorders often experience fearful or anxious thoughts in situations that are not dangerous.

Anxiety and Depression are both common. associatedwith low-grade inflammation. People with inflammatory diseases such as IBS or other alterations in the gut microbiota, such IBS, may also have IBS. high co-occurrenceof mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

An anxiety disorder can cause some of the following symptoms in people:

Learn more about anxiety symptoms and signs.

There are many treatment options that can be used to manage anxiety symptoms.

Healthcare professionals may recommend a combination of methods, and treatment will vary depending on a person’s symptoms, preferences, and general health.


Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is a common treatmentFor anxiety. There are many types of anxiety disorders that can be treated, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).Numerous studies have shown CBT’s efficacy in treating anxiety disorders. CBT focuses primarily on finding ways to reduce anxiety-provoking beliefs or behaviors.
  • Exposure therapyThis behavioral therapy can help overcome certain phobias. Psychiatric professionals can help people expose themselves to stimuli or situations that trigger fear or panic. Over time, these feelings diminish.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:This type of therapy uses mindfulness and goal setting to reduce anxiety. ACT is a form of psychotherapy that is relatively new, but it can be used. researchACT has been linked to improved mental health, quality of life, and better mental health.

Find out more about the different types of therapy available here.


Healthcare professionals may alsoPrescribe medication to treat anxiety disorders. Although medication cannot cure anxiety, it can ease symptoms.

The most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety disorders is:

Learn more about the various types of medication that can be used to treat anxiety.

Relaxation techniques

There are many stress relaxation techniques that can be used to reduce anxiety.

A 2019 study surveyed 1,151 adults, including those who meditated and those that didn’t meditate. Researchers found mindfulness reduced anxiety by increasing cognitive appraisal (an emotional regulation strategy) as well as reducing worry, rumination and suppression of emotions.


A 2020 studyResearchers found that physical activity can protect against anxiety disorders in both clinical and nonclinical settings. Exercise, a subset that includes physical activity, was also found to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.

Researchers aren’t certain of the mechanisms that physical activity can reduce anxiety symptoms. However, they believe that it may be a combination physiological and biological factors.

Learn more about anxiety exercises

Scientists believe that improving gut health can help manage anxiety.

Research has focused on the benefits of adding probiotics to a person’s diet and promoting healthy gut bacteria through high fiber and low saturated fat diets.


Probiotics are live microorganismsThese probiotics are found in fermented foods, dietary supplements, and other foods. Probiotics may help a person’s body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms or help it return to a healthy condition after being disturbed.

Learn more about probiotics and their health benefits here.

Numerous studies have examined the potential for probiotics to restore gut microbiota balance that has been disturbed by anxiety and stress. It is also possible that this may improve anxiety symptoms.

A 2021 studyThe study suggested a possible link between probiotic-induced microbiota regulation in stressed adults and stress/anxiety relief. Furthermore, 2019 studyThe probiotic strain was effective in preventing the development of gastrointestinal problems. Lactobacillus (L.) PlantarumP-8 for 12 weeks could help relieve stress and anxiety in stressed adults.

A 2019 reviewAnother highlight is a study involving Japanese medical student that found probiotic supplementation improved sleep and autonomic balance, bowel habits, as well as reducing stress and cortisol levels.

Fermented foods are a natural source for probiotics. There are many types include:

Learn more about the best Probiotic Foods for a Healthy Diet.


Researchers have also examined how diet can impact a person’s gut microbiota and how this relates to stress and anxiety.

The 2019 reviewThe above mentions that diet influences gut bacteria composition. Macronutrients also have an impact on gut microbiota.

The following foods were identified by researchers as supporting healthy microbiota.

This was in direct contrast to excessive animal protein, saturated fats, or refined or artificial sugars.

The study also suggests that high quality diets such as the Mediterranean diet can reduce depression risk.

The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a risk factor to anxiety and depression. It is low on saturated fats and high in dietary fibre, which further strengthens its role as a support for healthy microbiota.

Find out more about the Mediterranean diet.

If an individual experiences symptoms of anxiety disorders, they should consult a healthcare or mental professional. They can provide advice and refer people to the right support.

People should also seek medical advice if they have persistent digestive problems. An experienced healthcare team can diagnose any underlying issues, including anxiety disorders, that could be causing the persistent digestive problems.

It may also be worth speaking with a qualified nutritionist about how to improve one’s diet and how to increase the intake of probiotics.

In the United States, anxiety disorders and gut health are two of the most common health concerns. Researchers exploring the link between these conditions have focused on the “gut-brain axis,” a complex system of nerves, hormones, and bacteria that allows these two organs to communicate.

Research has shown stress can change the composition of gut microbiota, a system of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract that plays an important role in people’s health. A person’s gut microbiota is also involved in the development and function of their adaptive stress response.

Adding probiotics to a person’s diet may help regulate their gut microbiota, which may also help improve stress and anxiety symptoms. Healthy eating habits can help to maintain a healthy microbiota and lower the risk of developing depression.

Patients with anxiety or digestive issues should consult a healthcare professional who can advise them on the best treatment options.

Source: Medical News Today

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