How stress, anxiety and depression affect the gut – steps to improve gut health & digestion

Gut health and anxiety

Your gut is the most underrated organ in the body. The gut is directly connected to your brain, thus having a major impact on your mood, hormones, weight (loss/gain), and health. This means that if your digestion is sluggish, chances are that you’ll feel sluggish too.

So what are the steps to improve gut health and digestion?

#1 Food
Food is one of the key factors when it comes to taking care of your digestive system. Over the years, the quality of food has changed. I’m sure you have all heard people say that “organic food is better” well truth is – they are 100% right! We all know that chemical fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides and pesticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and are often harmful to wildlife. Even though they help fresh produce to look more “appealing” and have a longer shelf life, they also reduce the quality of product themselves. Take for example eggs: If the packaging states that the eggs are “Organic Certified” this means that the chickens are fed organic chicken feed, this therefore reduces your exposure to pesticides, as the chickens are not pumped with unnecessary antibiotics.

Eating organic food not only reduces the toxins in the body from nasty pesticides, chemicals and sprays but it is also more nutritious, therefore nourishing our body and aiding in absorption.

Try to shop at your local farmers market where possible, but if you’re not an early riser, you’ll now find an organic food section in the health food isle and organic produce in the fruit and vegetable section of all major supermarkets.

#2  Reducing Stress – How stress affects the digestive system

Stress can activate the “flight or fight” response in the central nervous system, causing the digestive system to shut down. This response limits blood flow and begins affecting other parts of the digestive system such as muscle contractions and secretions.  Stress can also be one of the main causes of inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, increasing your susceptibility to infection and can play a key part in understanding why you may be experiencing an upset stomach or irregular bowel movements (constipation or diarrhoea) hence why reducing stress is crucial if you are wanting to improve gut health and digestion.


#3 Managing Anxiety, Depression & Mental Health 

Research shows that people who suffer from abdominal pain, digestive discomfort and irritable bowel related symptoms commonly suffer from anxiety and depression and that the gut microbiota plays a significant part in influencing the brains chemistry and behaviour. [Read more about the mind-gut connection here]

 It is recommended that you seek medical advice if you are having symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression that is interfering with digestion as you may have am undiagnosed digestive disorder that needs treatment.
If stress, anxiety or depression management is the main issue, a trained medical professional can refer you to a mental health professional that can offer advice.


  • Diet : Eat a well- balanced diet (organic is best)
  • Regular Exercise
  • Relaxation techniques: Such as meditation to help reduce stress
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy: To learn how to manage stress & anxiety
  • Learn to listen to your body and understand your food triggers
    [Read more about the FODMAP diet here]

The Herxheimer Reaction – What to expect when re-introducing good bacteria into the gut

By eating more regularly taking a therapeutic grade probiotic, eating more cultured, fermented foods (such as kefir, yoghurt or kombucha) and slowly re-introducing good bacteria into the gut, it is highly likely that you will go through a phase called “die-off” symptoms. Some symptoms you may experience throughout this phase may include: headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other mild flu-like symptoms.

This is completely normal. As the bad bacteria die off and clear out of the body, they will naturally produce toxins. In a healthy gut, the body is able to eliminate these toxins without any symptoms. However, when a radical shift in gut microbiota takes place and such large quantities die-off, the body can’t effectively eliminate the toxins quick enough. This reaction is called “Herxheimer Reaction”
Disclaimer: Individual results may vary. Information and statements on are made purely for education and informational purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. does not offer medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views expressed are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical treatments. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, it is recommended that you consult with a medical professional.