Is Anxiety the New Global Virus?
It seems that everywhere I turn - in the grocery store, on TV, with friends and family - the conversations begin with some condition of anxiety. “I just can’t sleep and I always wakeup at 2am.” Do you suffer from stress?” “My heart is always racing, and I don’t know what to do.” Is anxiety now the new global virus?
Of course, the events of 2020 certainly set up the human psych for anxiety and depression. However, a deeper look into the emotional state of most Americans reveals that the problem began long before the events of 2020. I guess you could say 2020 was the boulder that broke the proverbial, camel’s back.
We have many professionals that are busy assisting us in the area of anxiety and depression and we are grateful. However, the need is far greater than the number of qualified professionals. We must lend our support! And we must ask ourselves how we can live healthy and happy lives with ease and grace.
I have found, over the years, sometimes the best place to begin is with the physical body. Our gut microbiome plays a major role in our mental health, immune system, personality, body BMI (body mass index) and dis-eases of the body. There are 100,000 x’s more microbes in the human gut than people on the earth - 100 Trillion cells total! Microbes vary from person to person like fingerprints. Negative changes in the microbiome contribute to a dis-eased body.
Brains and gut bacteria talk to each other influencing our emotions, how sensitive to pain we are, our social interactions, and our decision-making abilities. This connection is hardwired through the Vagus nerve and via signals carried through the bloodstream. Our gut has its own nervous system – the enteric nervous system (ENS) or second brain.
Feelings of anger, threat, fear – override and divert the ENS to over produce cortisol and adrenaline, releasing nerve signals that are sent to the ENS which inhibit the microbe behavior. These signals are influenced by bad things such as traffic, financial stress, or family arguments. These signals can be positively influenced by hugs, kind words and nurturing family meals.
Our gut responds to every emotion. In fact, our language is filled with expressions such as, “gut wrenching experience,” “ butterflies in my stomach,” and “gut instinct.”
Our gut stores 95% of our bodies’ serotonin. Serotonin is used to regulate normal gut function, sleep, appetite, mood, etc. Serotonin functions as a hormone affecting bone remodeling, pancreas function, fat cells, liver and metabolism. But Serotonin also influences our neurotransmitters which regulate behavior and mood.
Hundreds of scientific studies have proven the connection between our gut microbiome and our phycological health. In one study, animals raised in a germ-free environment had significant alterations in brain development, especially the parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation. Yes, we were meant to dig in the dirt! In yet another study, fecal pellets were transferred from an extrovert mouse to an introvert mouse. The introvert mouse became extroverted! In yet another study, microbes from obese mice caused lean mice to become overeaters. Interaction between gut and brain can either promote optimal health or make people vulnerable to physical and psychological diseases. (1)
Did you know that 90% of our microflora can be eliminated by broad spectrum anti-biotics and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADs)? If your microbiome has been largely wiped out, in addition to a plant-based diet, you can add probiotics. (2)(3)
In double blind studies, a 30-day supplementation of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterial decreased psychological distress, depression and as well as anger and hostility. In a review of 10 studies, daily probiotic supplementation can improve mood, anxiety, cognitive symptoms and, most significantly, anxiety. (4)
How can these single cell organisms have such a huge effect on the totality of who we are? The truth is that we need them more than they need us. When we do not take care of the bugs in our gut we do so at our own peril. So please be nice to your gut bugs! You can start by feeding your gut microbes what they like.
The next time you feel out of sorts remember that having a healthy and beautiful relationship with your gut bugs can take you on the road to a more balanced and happier you.
If you would like assistance in learning how to feed your gut bugs make an appointment at