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Anxiety & Stress
This article was guest-written by Camila Bronson, a NYC-based Anxiety Health Coach who specializes in gut health and medication-free strategies for managing anxiety.
There is an undeniable link between gut health and anxiety. In this article, I will talk a bit more about how that connection works and what you can do to start improving your gut health - and anxiety - today.
Our gut and brain are physically and chemically intertwined. The physical connection occurs via the vagus nerve, a nerve that originates in the brain stem, wrapping around several organs and penetrating the gut wall. Chemicals (like neurotransmitters) produced in the intestines travel to the brain and vice versa, creating what we call the gut-brain axis. How does this relate to anxiety? ? First, it's important to remember that our gut houses 90% of our serotonin receptors. Serotonin helps us regulate our moods naturally, so a symbiotic gut likely correlates to a happy, mellow mood. Lack of gut microbiome diversity also affects the amygdala, making it work overtime in an unhealthy way. The amygdala is a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere that is a driver of the emotions we experience, including activating our stress responses.
That's why gut integrity should be a top area of focus when addressing root causes of anxiety. I like to imagine the gut microbiome like a garden bed. In a situation of dysbiosis, the garden bed is filled with so many weeds (harmful bacteria), leaving no room for flowers (good bacteria) to grow. Popping a probiotic over an inflamed gut doesn't always work. One must first plow the fields, starve off the harmful bugs and allow space for the good bacteria to thrive.
To reset and repair your gut, crowding out processed sugar and simple carbs is a great way to start. You can achieve microbiome diversity by eating a large variety of organic vegetables, pasture-raised meats and eggs, healthy fats and fiber-rich foods. Anxiety and gut-loving foods include bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, brazil nuts, oats, cultured foods, wild fish, apple cider vinegar, chickpeas, spinach, cacao and maca root.
I trust natural supplements for anxiety and stress like Advanced Clear Focus and Be Calm for an added boost of anxiety relief and gut support. My favorite ingredients in Advanced Clear Focus are Rhodiola, Cordyceps, and Lion's Mane. Rhodiola is a botanical adaptogen with various protective and anti-inflammatory properties, and the Cordyceps and Lion's Mane mushrooms present possible antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. Be Calm’s formula includes broad-spectrum hemp oil and one of my beloved adaptogens: Ashwagandha. This herb is widely used for treating anxiety, effectively improving resistance towards stress, lowering cortisol levels among other health benefits.
There are also ways to support gut health and anxiety levels beyond the food you eat, and you can check all the tips on my Instagram. This new understanding about the gut-brain connection offers new opportunities to heal - take advantage of it!
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.