By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 17, 2019
A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see patients worrying themselves sick.
They are concerned about their health… their finances… their safety. Add in family-related issues, work problems, traffic, some mishap with an insurance bill and did I mention traffic? It seems like so many of them are waiting for the other shoe to drop…for that third thing to happen to finish up their week.
We all have our emergency biochemical systems in place to deal with life’s stressors on a short-term basis. Yet today more people than ever are experiencing anxiety disorders. A poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association last year found that almost 40% of Americans felt more anxious than the previous year. And the most recent reliable count is that anxiety affects about 40 million adults here in the U.S each year; 30% of children and adolescents will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder, yet 80% never get help.
There are a lot of theories going around. A number of experts blame social media and “the fear of missing out”. Others claim it’s instant access to all of the bad news, shocking visuals and doomsday scenarios that plague the internet. Add on an increasingly nutrient and sleep deprived population.
But we all have access to similar content. So why might it affect some people and not others?
Some could argue different brain chemistry. But oddly enough, the root of today’s anxiety epidemic might actually lie in your gut.
You see, your body has a secret, internal conversation going on all day and all night. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 days a year.
It’s called the gut-brain axis.
In a nutshell, it’s the amazing ability your gut bacteria have to activate signals in your brain, produce and respond to neurotransmitters, regulate B vitamins and vitamin K production and much more…
This means your brain tunes into everything that’s happening in your digestive tract. So if you have the wrong mix of microbes in your gut, it could be skewing what happens in your brain… making you nervous, apprehensive and filled with anxiety for no logical reason.
The relationship is much stronger than researchers believed in the past. As a matter of fact, it turns out somewhere around 60% of anxiety and depression patients have intestinal dysfunction related to changes in their gut microbiota.
As a result, it’s highly possible we’ve been looking in the wrong place when it comes to anxiety disorders. Instead of looking at the brain and treating symptoms, we should be looking at the gut and treating causes.
I’ve found, over and over again, that it is entirely possible to treat anxiety simply by regulating gut microbiota. In fact, this is one of the most common approaches I’ve taken with my own patients over the years.
The reason for this is easy to explain.
When your gut microbiome is in balance, it provokes a positive gut-brain response to chronic stressors which we are all dealing with every day. So the best way to trigger this response is to increase “good” bacteria in the intestinal tract. These, in turn, fight off “bad” bacteria that mess with the signaling in your brain and can make you anxious.
Eat Your Way to Less Anxiety
One way help balance out your gut microbes is by supplementing with a probiotic each day. There is plenty of evidence showing that they can be very effective in treating anxiety.
So the first thing I recommend is arming yourself with a good probiotic formula. Look for one that includes a prebiotic and multiple live strains of beneficial bacteria. The higher the colony count, the better off you’ll be.
But let me warn you. Taking a probiotic isn’t a cure-all. It’s just a step in the right direction.
To really give your gut bacteria a boost, diet changes could have an even greater impact on anxiety reduction. An improvement in diet will grow diverse good bacterial in you.
You can probably guess that too much meat, fried foods, refined carbs, sugars and processed foods can throw the bacteria in your gut out of whack. They produce high levels of harmful bacteria in your gut. So, yeah eating those not so much or at all…
And I admit. I often wonder if it is America’s indulgence in these foods that might be one of the reasons anxiety levels in the U.S. keep growing.
Plus, you know as well as I do that Americans aren’t eating enough fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. (Did you know that only one in every 10 adults gets their daily recommended serving of them?)
However, these healthy plant-based foods can quickly replenish levels of highly diverse and healthful bacteria in the gut. This is one of the many reasons I recommend loading up on organic fruits and veggies 87% of the time, and eating meats only about 13% of the time.
Another food American’s don’t each much of these days are those that are fermented. Yet they are a great source of natural probiotics that feed your gut. Kimchi, miso, natto, kefir, tempeh, kombucha and sauerkraut are all fermented foods.
So add some more of these gut friendly foods to your diet and start supporting the gut-brain your body needs to ward off feelings of anxiety while helping you to feel better overall.
Americans Say They are More Anxious than a Year Ago; Baby Boomers Report Greatest Increase in Anxiety. News Release. American Psychiatric Association. May 2018.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Clapp M, et al. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017 Sep 15; 7(4): 987.
2018 Children’s Mental Health Report CMI
Liu L, et al. Gut–Brain Axis and Mood Disorder. Front Psychiatry. 2018; 9: 223.
Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria. News Release. BMJ. May 2019.
David LA, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014 Jan 23;505(7484):559-63.