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The Gut-Brain Connection: Exploring How the Microbiome Affects Mental Health and Sleep


You know I’m obsessed with microbiome balance being the base for hormone balance and overall well being! 

The state of your gut microbiome affects your: 

  • nutrient absorption

  • neurotransmitter production

  • systemic inflammation

  • immune system regulation

And all of these can impact your mental health and hormone balance. There’s been a recent study linked to depression and specific gut bacteria and I wanted to share this information with you. 

What are the symptoms? 

When we think of gut problems, we think of digestive symptoms like excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, maybe pain or cramping, but what anxiety, depression, mood can also be linked to our microbiome: ruminating thoughts, worry, fears, OCD or obsessive tendencies or thoughts, PMS, sleep issues, anger, rage… or even physical tension in your muscles, pain... 

Honestly, I can relate to many of these symptoms and I can actually even document this with my own experience: following my mold exposure in early 2023, I had tested for Candida, but it had gotten back negative to my surprise. At the end of 2023, I have done an organic acids test and another blood test also checking for candida and now it just screamed yeast overgrowth on all tests. These really correlated with my symptoms of high anxiety, muscle soreness and pain and digestive symptoms that had become pertinent in the weeks before I had done the tests. 

In the OAT test, I could also see how that affects my neurotransmitters by blocking the decomposition of dopamine to norepinephrine meaning that I can’t relax and that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling in the past couple of months: I was so nervous! Now this is just one example on how your gut bacteria can impact your mental health by impacting neurotransmitter production or regulation.

There’s been a  recent study that identified 13 specific types of bacteria in the gut that are associated with symptoms of depression. These bacteria turn out to impact the way people’s brains produce neurotransmitters, particularly those linked to depression such as glutamate.

Some of these strains produce butyrate, which is an important precursor to the neurotransmitter and amino acid GABA (which is a calming neurotransmitter or amino acid). Low GABA is linked to physical tension: you may feel physically tense in your muscles, you may feel really tight in your shoulders. You may have pain as well; sleep can be an issue. And then the amino acid for this low level of neurotransmitter is GABA, it happens to be the same name. This is definitely one that’s lacking in my case: hence GABA really helps me sleep better.  What is butyrate? Go back to my previous article to read more.

As I mentioned in my blog about probiotics and butyrate, there’s unfortunately no custom-made probiotic for each individual’s microbiome, so choosing the right product for what I see in a client’s microbiome is one part of a healing protocol but then the important thing is to feed the specific bacteria that we want to nourish with the right foods they love.

They also found in that study that serotonin producing bacteria were low. (Remember that 80% of your serotonin is produced by your gut bacteria?)

Low serotonin is linked to: depression, winter blues, mental worry, ruminating thoughts, worry, fears, OCD or obsessive tendencies or thoughts, PMS, sleep issues, anger, rage or gluten sensitivity. 

Now it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re deficient in amino acids, but most of the time, the neurotransmitter pathways are impacted by gut imbalances or other things and are not working properly. Toxins from plastics, phthalates, pesticides, heavy metals will definitely impact those neurotransmitter pathways and prevent them from working properly too; 

So the solution here is not to supplement with amino acids or eat more foods high in specific amino acids but finding the underlying cause that’s messing up your neurotransmitter pathways. 

You can also see how these may impact your symptoms of increased PMS and all mood disorders that you may link to perimenopause. And the truth is that in peri or menopause, it’s often both: as I explained before in this article, when hormone levels decline, that has a negative impact on your gut microbiome which in return has a negative impact on your hormone levels. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone are definitely linked to depression and anxiety. 

If you want help with managing your symptoms of depression, anxiety, PMS, bad sleep or digestive issues, book a free clarity call here so we can discuss.


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