The Connection Between Gut Health and Emotional Wellbeing

Do you know the twisting feeling in your stomach before a big meeting or presentation? Or the feeling of butterflies in your stomach on a first date?

This is part of the brain-gut connection, responsible for communication between your brain and your enteric nervous system (ENS).

How Does the Brain-Gut Connection Work? 

The ENS is responsible for the movement in your gastrointestinal, releasing gastric acid for digestion, blood flow and the release of gut hormones to regulate your appetite.

This connection means emotional experiences can register as gastrointestinal distress. When you feel anxious or nervous, this may feel like nausea or a twisting and turning sensation in your stomach.

The communication is bidirectional. The microbiome creates neurotransmitters or chemical messengers that your blood carries to your brain and your brain can send messages to your gut to speed it up or change the microbiome.

These neurotransmitters regulate movement, motivation, emotions, and even the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

When people talk about the imbalance of neurotransmitters and hormones, it begins in your gut, which means your microbiome can affect your mood and brain chemistry.

As a result, an unhealthy gut, also known as dysbiosis, can result in GI issues and disorders such as:


      Irritable Bowel Syndrome


      Loss of appetite

      Unusual hunger

      Stomach upset

      Crohn’s disease

      Ulcerative colitis.

Additionally, studies show that the imbalance of microbiomes or gut dysbiosis is linked to depression and anxiety and mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Bipolar disorder, Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

The good news is that healthy eating is a preventive strategy that can contribute to overall emotional and mental wellness.

Is the Brain-Gut Connection Related to Comfort Food?

You may be wondering why processed foods high in salt and sugar, like waffles with maple syrup or a fried burger with an extra helping of fries, tend to be what feels most comforting when you feel stressed or sad.  

That’s because your comfort foods are related to your brain-gut connection.

The vagus nerve is one of the communication pathways in your ENS. When it’s stimulated, it reduces the stress response and produces feelings of relaxation.

Comfort food is less about the food and more about the experience attached.

Eating certain foods that taste good or remind you of a comforting time in your life activates the vagus nerve and can trigger the relaxation response.

The good thing is you can still feel comfort from healthier foods and train your body to want food with less sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

What Strategies Can You Use To Improve Your Microbiome? 

A healthy gut regulates your mood, protects your brain, improves symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves cognitive function.

Follow a diet incorporating healing foods, prebiotics and probiotic supplements to heal your microbiome and improve your mental health.

Take Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotic supplements help restore your gut balance by adding good bacteria to your microbiome. You will find that some are targeted for specific conditions, so you can choose a supplement based on the benefits.

Prebiotics are high-fiber foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut to maintain a healthy microbiome.

Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidium are some of the probiotic strains that reduce symptoms of depression when taken with prebiotics.

While probiotic supplements help, you should incorporate foods containing probiotics and prebiotics. Some of these foods include:

      Goat’s yogurt

      Organic miso


      Flax seeds


      Cocoa powder

      Soft cheeses





Incorporate Healing Foods

You can also add healing foods to your diet to address gut health.

1.    Low FODMAP foods

This diet is commonly used to treat IBS. These foods decrease gas production and fermentation in your gut:

      Non-processed meats like fish


      Vegetables like Potatoes





      Green tea

      Almond milk

2.    Anti-inflammatory foods

These foods foster a healthy gut environment and reduce inflammation.


      Collard greens


3.    Whole grains

These foods help your digestive system to function well at all times:

       Brown rice


      Rice cakes


4.    Foods with antioxidants

These healing foods with antioxidant properties support emotional wellbeing by regulating moods and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation:


      Green tea

      Dark chocolate


Improve Emotional and Mental Wellbeing Through Your Diet

The brain-gut connection is a complex communication system that affects physical and psychological health. P

rioritizing healthy foods that support your microbiome will improve your wellbeing, so it’s essential to focus on creating a nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory diet high in fiber and low in processed foods, unhealthy fats and sugar.