Feeling sick, sad, tired, unmotivated, stressed, or just plain meh? When you feel bad all the time it becomes difficult to enjoy life, find the motivation to get things done, and connect with the people that matter. Depression and anxiety can be debilitating. These states of being are becoming very prevalent in modern society, so you are not alone. And it’s important that you reach out and seek professional help when you are having trouble functioning and enjoying life.
What makes this even more frustrating is sometimes we just can’t understand the cause. Why do I feel so tired and low energy? Why can’t I get motivated? Why don’t I feel good?
I have asked myself these questions but I wanted to get to the root of the problem. I found some good information although some didn’t apply. It seems that a lot of the reasons and advice given didn’t fully answer my questions:
- low self-esteem
- major life changes
- trauma or abuse
- negative self-talk
- substance abuse
- loneliness and isolation
- loss of a loved one
- an illness or health condition
All of these are valid reasons as to why you feel the way you do.
But what if there was an underlying or hidden cause you hadn’t considered?
Your Gut Health And Your Mental Health
It turns out that when they say, “you are what you eat,” they were right.
It’s becoming more accepted that if we step away from processed junk food and sugar and instead eat a balanced, whole-foods plant-based diet, we would probably feel more energized and healthy.
Yet most of us don’t understand one of the major reasons why we get these results. Of course, there’s the fact that we’re consuming more vitamins and minerals that are essential to bodily functions.
But another reason is bacteria.
Our human cells are actually outnumbered by the bacterial cells in our bodies. Gut health and the microbiome is a very new area of research and new discoveries are happening all the time. At the time of me writing this, it’s been found that we are comprised of around 40% human cells and 60% microbial and bacterial cells.
We are only 40% human.
Our bodies are a community of cells all working together to keep you, their host, alive and well. If they aren’t happy, then there’s a good chance you’re not feeling so great all the time.
Bacteria And Mood
What we eat determines the type of microbes and bacteria we have in our gut. They are in there feasting on what you serve them. And depending on what type of bacteria you’ve been curating all your life, they’ve largely been the ones running your cravings as well as your moods.
It turns out that our gut bacteria actually create feel-good neurotransmitters like:
These molecules absolutely affect your mental health, mood, energy levels, and overall wellbeing.
Bacteria and Behavior
You’ll know you’re experiencing the effects of dopamine when you feel rewarded and motivated after accomplishing something difficult. It also just makes you feel good when you’re doing things you enjoy or that give you pleasure like feeling productive or participating in your favorite hobby.
The dark side of dopamine is its role in addiction. That rush of feeling on top of the world can happen when we aren’t making the best choices for ourselves, and we may keep going back to that behavior to receive the same “reward” or positive feelings. That’s not going to make us feel any better in the long run.
It also affects sleep, memory, and focus. The lack of this neurotransmitter has been linked with depression.
Serotonin is known as the happiness hormone. It plays a role in stabilizing mood and is linked to feelings of well-being, calm, and yes, happiness.
Lesser known is its effect on digestion through peristalsis which is the muscle contraction and relaxation of your intestines. Therefore, if you have constipation you may have a lack of serotonin, and if you have diarrhea it’s possible you have too much. It’s been observed that people who take medication to treat depression by boosting serotonin have experienced looser bowels.
I was stunned to find out that our gut – not the brain – actually makes 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine.
If your gut’s not happy, you aren’t happy.
This is why people with mood issues have gut issues like IBS. Those with depression tend to have constipation, and those with anxiety tend to have diarrhea. They’re finding links between Autism and gastrointestinal disorders.
It’s also interesting to think about how much of our personality or personal preferences are actually created by the gut microbiome we were born with and curated our whole lives. How many of us think of ourselves as chocolate lovers, high strung, pessimistic, or optimistic? Could these things be influenced by our guts?
Just some food for thought.
What Are We Missing?
If you feel that your low mood, exhaustion, or brain fog is a mystery to you, your gut bacteria, or microbiota, may have been damaged by stress, antibiotics, lack of sleep, or poor diet.
So it seems the right course of action would be a plan to target all of these areas as well as taking a probiotic with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains.
Here are some things that may be missing from your diet if you’re feeling bad a lot of the time:
- Omega 3s
- Bifido and Lacto probiotics
- B vitamins
- vitamin D
And not surprisingly, your gut bacteria (specifically Bifido, Lacto, and Propinoni) are responsible for synthesizing B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid, and B12. Another reason your bacteria affects your mood!
This was the information that I was missing when I was trying to figure out why I felt bad all the time. Nutrition and gut health play such a huge role in the way I feel and how I show up every day. And now that I know, I can take better control.
Your brain health, and, to a large extent, your mental health are determined by the specific population of microbes within your gut. And the composition of your gut or microbiota depends on what your microbes are eating.
Therefore, we should be feeding them a diverse diet that’s rich in healthy fats, polyphenols, fiber, and fermented foods. This will help you get all the vitamins you need and it will help your bacteria synthesize important vitamins, neurotransmitters, and hormones important in stabilizing mood, clearing your brain fog, staying motivated, and feeling happy.
It also helps to take a look at the other areas of your life that may be contributing to a depressed mood, anxiety, or memory problems. All of these areas are connected and have an effect on our bodies and mental health.
Change is hard, but it’s worth it.
What issues related to mood have impacted you the most? Do you see a connection between feeling bad all the time to any gut issues you’ve struggled with? Let us know in the comments!