Part 1: You truly are what you eat! A healthy gut = less anxiety
You may want to put that donut down. Not for the sake of your body goals, but more importantly, it could be causing you to experience more anxiety!
Modern science continues to prove the adage is true: You are what you eat. Research shows that not only do your thoughts affect your gastrointestinal functions, but the nervous system signals from the gut also affect the brain.
This two-way street communication, between brain and belly, not only means high-stress environments or emotional experiences might cause heartburn, an upset stomach or diarrhea, but it also means that a typical Western diet filled with fast food and sugar, which disrupts your gut flora, can also lead to greater experiences of social anxiety and even depression.
So what is gut flora (also known as intestinal flora), and why should you care? The medical dictionary describes it as "healthy bacteria residing within the intestines that aids in digestion and food breakdown". This healthy bacteria (also known as probiotics) is also known to produce Vitamin B and Vitamin K.
In general, healthy gut flora is associated with sufficient levels of prebiotics and probiotics. Think of prebiotics as the nutrient-dense soil you might purchase at the garden shop before planting your flower bed. It’s common knowledge that your plants need good soil and water to thrive. The same is true for probiotics (or healthy gut bacteria), they need a gut environment that is sufficient in prebiotics to perform their best.
A study conducted in 2014 by researchers at the University of Oxford showed that prebiotics taken daily with breakfast for three weeks resulted in the men and women being less reactive to stress responses.
This is great news for those with social anxiety. By tweaking one’s diet with foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics, you may be able to reduce nervous tension and other systems.
In part two, I reveal the best probiotic and prebiotic foods to help maintain healthy gut flora and lessen anxiety.