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May 20, 2024

E26 | The surprising link between gut health and anxiety (and what you can do about it!)

Are you struggling with anxiety, mood swings, or poor mental health, despite trying various treatments?

What if the root cause of your emotional distress lies in an unexpected place – your gut?

Many people overlook the crucial role gut health plays in regulating mood and mental well-being. 

They may try medication, supplements, or fad diets without addressing the underlying imbalance in their gut microbiome.

By understanding the intricate connection between your gut and brain, you can take a proactive approach to healing anxiety and other mood disorders from the inside out.


  • 5 specific symptoms that could indicate your gut health is sabotaging your mental state
  • The fascinating science behind the mind-gut connection and how it impacts your emotions
  • Proven strategies to heal your microbiome and transform your emotional well-being through diet, lifestyle, and stress management

You'll learn why conventional treatments like medication and restrictive diets might not provide long-lasting relief, and how a holistic approach tailored to your unique needs can help you find the balance and happiness you deserve.


Episode 5 A step-by-step guide towards addressing your gut health

Episode 25 Leaky gut and autoimmune disease: How to heal your gut naturally

Book : Mind Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer

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@aninditarungta | nourish heal connect | Embrace Your Healing Journey

Your body knows how to heal, are you ready to support it?


01:29 - Your gut has capabilities that surpass all your other organs and even rival your brain

05:29 - Some of the specific symptoms that could indicate an imbalance in your gut microbiome

09:09 - Your brain talks to your body, your body talks back to your brain

12:55 - What if you looked at healing differently?

13:51 - A few examples of what may NOT be working for you

16:16 - It's time to take a proactive approach to your health

19:21 - A holistic approach to healing isn't a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution


 In today's episode, we are going to explore the surprising link between your gut health and your experience with anxiety and other mood disorders. Recent scientific research has revealed that trillions of microbes which stay in your gut, which reside in your gut, known as the gut microbiome, play a significant role in regulating your mental health, particularly when it comes to anxiety and mood disorders. 

That's all coming up next right here on Embrace Your Healing Journey. 1s Welcome to Embrace Your Healing Journey, a podcast for women with autoimmune and other chronic conditions to help them navigate the illness without fear of isolation and uncertainty and find relief from their symptoms. Your body is your guide and ally in healing. If you're ready to embrace this journey with compassion and awareness, then the show is for you. Tune in weekly as I, a Functional medicine certified health coach, deliver tips and insights that demystify the healing process, guiding you towards the relief you deserve so that you can feel healthy and happy once more. 

In each episode, I share inspiring poems, stories and quotes that may help you to draw strength from them and stay motivated on your healing journey. These are all things that have touched me one way or another, and today's an excerpt from the amazing book on this very topic, The Mind Gut Connection by Doctor Emeran Mayer. 

He says your gut has capabilities that surpass all your other organs and even rival your brain. It has its own nervous system, known in scientific literature as the enteric nervous system or illness, and often referred to in the media as the second brain. This second brain is made up of 50 to 100 million nerve cells, as many as are contained in your spinal cord. He goes on to say, the lining of your gut is studded with a huge number of endocrine cells, specialized cells that contain up to 20 different types of hormones that can be released into the bloodstream if called upon. The gut is also the largest storage facility for serotonin in our body. 95% of the body's serotonin is stored in these warehouses. Serotonin is a signaling molecule that plays a crucial role within the gut brain axis. It is not only essential for normal intestine function, such as the coordinated contractions that move food through our digestive system, but it also plays a crucial role in such vital functions such as sleep, appetite, pain sensitivity, mood, and overall well-being. 

He also says many adult brain disorders including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and most likely IBS are now considered neurodevelopment disorders, meaning that the basic brain changes start very early in life, many of them already in utero. As we have learned, stress is a major factor that influences these neurodevelopment changes. And there are at least two major pathways by which early adversity can affect the brain gut axis. 

One is by epigenetic modification of the stress response system and the brain gut axis. The other is through stress induced changes in the gut microbiota and their products, which can further affect the brain. 

So, in other words, your gut health and the health of your immune system are intricately linked through various mechanisms. Stress plays a huge role in that. Uh, we just you know, he talks about brain disorders, anxiety, depression. He also mentions that serotonin is actually produced in your gut, and it's actually 95% of serotonin. A neurotransmitter is actually stored in your gut cells. Right. So it's a significant impact that your gut health. As has on your mental health, and it's impacted by factors such as diet, stress and the health of your microbiome. 

So microbiome is the collection of microbes in your in your gut. This means that if you focus on creating a healthier gut through mindful dietary habits, stress management, you can actually improve anxiety and other mood disorders that are actually connected to the health of your gut. So if you've ever felt butterflies in your stomach, or you knew if you felt disgust and you said, I feel sick to my stomach, or you've had loses just before a very important meeting or a, you know, when before you had an exam as a child, know that it's the gut brain connection that we've been talking about. That's that's how it impacts your brain. 

Your brain impacts your gut and you got impacts your brain. And apart from the neurotransmitter serotonin, that is so important for our mood and overall well-being. The second brain or the enteric nervous system, the awareness, as it is called, also makes, uh, typically half of the body's dopamine. That means your gut health is also very important in terms of dopamine production, which is another neurotransmitter. And that has a direct bearing on focus, motivation, memory and drive. Right. So they are very, very important ways in which your gut health is directly impacting your brain function. So what are some of the specific symptoms that could indicate an imbalance in your gut microbiome. And that may be contributing to your anxiety or mood issues? 

Some common signs that you can look out for include digestive discomfort. That means frequent bloating. Gas. Constipation, diarrhea. These can all be red flags that your gut health is out of balance, and that you need to focus on that. And this can directly impact your mental health. 

The second thing that you can look out for are intense sugar cravings. So if you find yourself constantly reaching for sugary snacks or refined carbohydrates, it could be a sign that your gut bacteria are influencing your food choices that feed anxiety and mood swings. But bear in mind there can be also other reasons for sugar cravings. Low blood sugar levels. Uh, yeast overgrowth. So you need to, you know, also keep that in mind. 

Number three, difficulty in sleeping and unhealthy gut can disrupt your body's production of serotonin. Serotonin we've just talked about. It's a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating sleep. And it is produced in, uh, you know, in your gut a large amount is produced in your gut, and about 95% is actually stored in your endocrine cells in the second brain, which is, uh, is the enteric nervous system that is a part of your gut. And that actually produces the sleep hormone melatonin. So serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. So if there is a disruption in serotonin production due to poor gut health that actually impacts your sleep because of disruption in melatonin production, that's actually the, uh. If you struggle with insomnia or poor sleep quality, it could be connected to gut health. Of course, there can be other factors, so you need to know you know how to figure that out. Because I know several people who deal with chronic insomnia and have major gut symptoms, and they have pretty much tried everything, including sleeping pills, as a drastic measure, but they've still not been able to sort out their chronic insomnia. And this may be the reason why. So all these can, you know, they can be different reasons for these issues, but a lot of it can be connected to your gut health, poor gut health. 

Number four are skin issues. So conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis can often be traced back to inflammation and imbalances in the gut microbiome. And certainly in the case of autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis and even eczema. It has definitely been linked to immune distribution, which is linked to poor gut health or disruption in the gut microbiome.

 And number five, chronic fatigue. So if you constantly feel tired and sluggish, even after getting enough rest, it could be a sign that your gut health is impacting your energy levels and overall mood. And again, this may not happen directly but indirectly through malabsorption, malnourishment, etc. so there are many different ways that you are directly and indirectly, both that your gut health can be impacting your, you know, and contributing to many of your symptoms. 

The first one I mentioned was digestive discomfort. 
The second was intense sugar cravings. 
Number three difficulty in sleeping. 
Number four, chronic skin issues. 
And number five, chronic fatigue. 

So if you're experiencing any of these symptoms, along with feelings of anxiety, worry, low mood, it is worth exploring the connection between your gut health and your mental and emotional wellbeing. It may not be all in your head as they say. It actually may be linked to your gut health. You see, everything inside you is connected from your brain to every part of your body. Nothing is separate. Nothing is discrete. And just like the brain talks to your body, your body talks back to your brain. 

So when something not right in your body, this can mess with your brain and the way you feel and make you possibly feel sad or worried. In other words, uh, especially when it comes to your body, it's the gut brain axis that we are talking about. And this can happen because of certain chemicals in your body like hormones or neurotransmitters, which often get out of balance. And we talked about two of these, which is certain in and dopamine, which actually are definitely linked to the health of your gut. And if the, you know, if the production in these, uh, neurotransmitters get affected, so does many other things in your body. And it's not just one way traffic. So when you're feeling stressed or down because things aren't going your way, this can actually also throw off the balance of these same chemicals. And which then can affect the entire body. So it's a two way street. 

So it's all linked together. So how you feel in your mind can impact your body. And what's happening in your body can impact your mind and your mood too. So think of your body and your mind like a team. And your brain. So mind when I talk about mine, I mean your brain like a team and that needs good food, rest and a happy gut. So when things get out of balance, uh, you know, every everyone suffers the entire team. 

And here are the most three most common reasons that I find that you know why this happens. 

The first reason is too much stress which can also be contributed to toxic exposure. Uh, stress can be physiological, stress can be psychological. And when we are stressed all the time and we are exposed to toxins due to pollutions or chemicals, our body has to work really hard to stay healthy. This may or may not be connected with each other, but they definitely play important role. And this can actually create inflammation in our body. And, you know, keep our body inflamed and in a fight or flight state so that it always, you know, body is in survival mode. And this can make us feel really down or even anxious. 

The second thing is gut dysbiosis. Uh, I already mentioned microbiome, which is the trillions of gut bacteria that we have in our in a second lower part of the intestine that talks to our brain. And these microbes may play a very important role in maintaining optimal health through various mechanisms. And I've dug deeper into the role of our microbiome in episode 25, which is leaky gut, an autoimmune disease. How to heal your Gut naturally. And I'll share the link in the notes below. Dysbiosis is an imbalance in our gut microbiome, and it occurs when harmful microbes outnumber the beneficial ones, and this imbalance can actually disrupt the normal use of nutrients and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is essential for mood regulation. Right? So as you can see, they're all connected. So all of this can actually contribute to feelings of sadness and or anxiety. And it just tells us how intricately, intricately your gut health is connected to your emotional well-being. 

And the last thing that I want to mention here is serotonin deficiency and anxiety. A significant volume of serotonin as as it can be as high as 95% is actually, uh, is, uh, stored in your gut. And it's also a significant amount is produced in, uh, in your gut. So an imbalance in gut health can actually lead to decreased serotonin levels. And this shortfall is closely linked to not only feelings of sadness, but also feelings of increased anxiety. So what I want you to take away from this is, you know what If you looked at healing differently

What if you looked at healing and dealing with your anxiety, low moods, mood? Mood swings in a different manner, where you align your diet with what your gut truly needs. When you embrace stress management techniques, where you tweak your lifestyle to limit toxin exposure. So it's all about getting to know and taking care of your guts, unique ecosystem, and figuring out a lifestyle that supports your mental and emotional well-being. That's where the journey to healing really begins. So maybe you've tried reaching for a pill or a supplement, maybe hoping it will make everything better. Unfortunately, solutions like these often don't work in the long run because, uh, especially if the real root cause is linked to gut health or the amount of stress. And these are again, of course, connected. 

So here are a few examples of what may not be working for you. 

Number one is medication. So taking an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication might give you some relief. May give you a breather. But it's like putting a Band-Aid on a wound because you're not really tackling the root cause. And your root cause may be poor gut health and your gut health. And how you handle stress actually plays, uh, very important roles here. So unless that is addressed, you may not find long term relief. But I want you to note that often medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics are necessary for certain people who have clinical depression. So please consult a medical professional if you need to. 

Number two are supplements. So if you have picked up supplements just because you've heard it's worked for others but you've not really understood what your body specifically needs, then you actually may end up either feeling stuck or worse, you can actually feel out of balance Or you throw your system out of balance and feel worse. So just be careful because even supplements do work, but they have to be targeted for your unique requirements. 

Number three is the latest diet craze. Like, there's so many diets that you keep hearing about and diving headfirst in whatever new diet, uh, the latest diet trend may seem like a good idea, but here's the thing without knowing the foods that your body needs, you may not get that mental health boost that you're looking for. Of course, the side effects of a particular diet may not be that high unless unlike medications or supplements, but the fact remains that you may not see the relief or the results that you're looking for. 

And number four is ignoring stress management. A lot of us actually focus so much on diet, focus on supplements, focus on testing, medications, etc. but we do not really focus on what kind of stress are we going through. And stress might be mental stress, psychological stress, emotional stress, stress, um, because of a toxin exposure, which is physiological stress. So it's easy to think that you can just power through and push through stress without any repercussions. Many of us don't even take it very seriously, but stress has a way of sneaking up on you. Eventually messing with your hormones and you've got balance. And by now you've realized that that's not a good thing. So this is what I want you to do instead.

 So I want you to, number one, embrace a holistic approach to healing. So I want you to take into account your diet, stress management, lifestyle factors that all that support gut health and mental wellbeing. And again, you can head to episode 25 where I talk about it in the details and even a episode of one more earlier episode that I will share the link below, which I talk about a step by step, uh, approach towards better gut health. I shared the link below. I think it's episode five. Number two is focus on nourishing your gut with a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet. You know, rich in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemicals that are produced naturally by plants. And they can they really help us in many different ways. So it simply means having different, uh, colors of plants like vegetables and fruits and fiber. So plants naturally have a lot of fiber. So it can actually support a diverse and healthy microbiome. Uh, I don't know whether you realize this, but the food that you're consuming is actually meant for the trillions of microbes in your gut, because that's the fodder. That's the food actually, for them. So and, uh, as you can realize, we have a symbiotic relationship. So if your gut microbes are healthy, then you are healthy. So in effect, you're actually eating for your gut microbes. 

Number three is prioritized rest rejuvenation and stress reducing activity. So whether it's mindfulness, whether it's yoga, whether it's spending time in nature, you know, enjoying certain hobbies, painting, dancing, music, reading, you know, the that the it's not important what you are doing. It's more important that you are doing something. So all of these things actually, can help you create an environment where you are taking better care of your gut by taking better care of the gut microbes and in turn, uh, seeing improvements in your mental and emotional well-being. So and whether it's anxiety, mood swings, mood disorders, etc.

 So instead of simply accepting the norm of modern lifestyle choices that contribute to anxiety, depression, mood imbalances, it's time that you take a proactive approach to your health because there's so many things that are in your control, namely, many, many things that are not, but nourishing your body with a rainbow. As I said, you know, different color diet which is phytonutrient rich foods providing your gut with the building blocks it needs to thrive embracing practices, relaxation practices, uh, minimizing toxin exposure, so many things that it's literally in your hands. And it's crucial because when you align all of this, when you do all of this, you're creating an environment that supports optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. And we don't realize this. 

It's not just about physical health. It's not just About feeling fit and fine and reducing injuries and losing weight. It's also about how you actually feel, whether you can control your emotions, that you feel happy, whether you feel sad with your constantly going up and down, all of it. But here's the thing the holistic approach to healing is not a quick fix or a one size fits all solution. It requires a deep understanding of your unique needs, preferences, and lifestyle, so it demands that you know you are willing to experiment because you know you may not figure out what needs to be done at the first instance, but you have to figure out what are some of the things. 

And that's happened with all my clients, you know, that I work with, whom I work with. I work with women primarily with women with autoimmune conditions. And there's so many different things, so many directions that they can go to be prioritized that we I customize, I make a tailor made plan for them, and it's not a one size fits all solution. Even the two do women with the same kind of diagnoses like Hashimoto's for example, will not take exactly the same approach. Of course, the primary focus will be gut health, improving gut health. But the, you know, the steps that they take will be quite different. So that's why working with a skilled practitioner you can guide you through this transformative process is so valuable. It takes you years of, you know, years and hours, but it is quite it can be quite complex. And it's the complexities of gut health and mental wellbeing, the personalized recommendations that you need, what foods, what practices, what lifestyle shifts will have the biggest impact, and also the accountability to stay on track. All that is not easy to do, try and do at the same time. 

So I don't want you to go away thinking that you have to do all of this alone. There are functional medicine practitioners. There are health coaches who are trained to help you with just, you know, with this and I am both a functional medicine practitioner and a health coach. So I tend to do, you know, sort of play both the roles, because when you invest in your gut health, you're not just improving your life, you are creating a ripple effect of positive change that extends to your entire family, then community, then society. That's typically how it works, especially where women are concerned. 

Women are often the center of their family. They carry the emotional burden, uh, a lot, uh, so mental burden of the family. So the woman actually starts feeling better, uh, more stable, emotionally stable, happier. The entire family tends to do well, too. So I hope that you will start exploring foods, practices, and habits that make you feel your best. Listen to your body's wisdom and trust in its innate ability to heal. Give it what it needs and it will thrive. If you have any questions, you can connect with me on Instagram at @aninditarungta. 

Thank you so much for joining me today for this episode of Embrace Your Healing Journey. I would love to share with you a comprehensive shopping list of groceries and foods with Amazon. Links to purchase for products available in India, such as gluten dairy free products. This will help to kick start your gut health journey and focus on foods that are gut healthy. Uh, I've shared the link below. You can click on that. It's a free guide, and 

In the next episode, I will talk about why focusing on bringing the immune system back into balance rather than boosting it, is crucial for effectively managing autoimmune diseases and promoting, uh, overall well-being. Don't miss it. Your body knows how to heal. Are you ready to support it?