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The gastrointestinal tract or gut is a multifaceted bodily system that controls digestion, waste, nutrition, and the immune system. In fact, there are many more bacteria in the body than human cells. Inside the gut are trillions of healthy bacteria working in unison to provide a layer of protection from harmful substances. While trillions of bacteria live in the gut, the most essential are the proteobacteria, firmicutes, actinobacteria, and bacteroidetes.

  • Proteobacteria: Proteobacteria make the gut ready to absorb critical nutrients and oxygen. Proteobacteria make up approx. 0.3% of body weight, which given their size, shows precisely how many millions of bacteria are needed to function healthily.
  • Firmicutes: Firmicutes serve to rid the body of indigestible chemicals and enzymes. Firmicutes also control immune health and behavior. Over 50% of gut microbes are firmicutes.
  • Actinobacteria: Actinobacteria play a significant role in absorbing nutrients and breaking down digestible foods. Newborns have high levels of this bacteria to help them better digest food for their growing bodies.


The microbiome is a broad term referring to every bacteria that occur within the human body. It acts as the regulator for bacteria and the microbiota described above. In excess, gut microbiota can cause health complications. The microbiome constantly monitors and adjusts the level of these bacteria while also working with another system to balance out hormones to create the homeostasis required for health.


The gut-brain axis is the connection between the gut and the central nervous system, and it is an essential part of the entire gut-brain connection. Communication between the gut-brain axis is possible due to microbial signals the gut sends to the brain regarding bacteria levels. This axis impacts cognition, mood, and digestive health. Without the gut-brain axis, two of the most vital systems in the body would begin working independently, invariably leading to severe medical complications and changes in weight, energy, and appearance.

Because the gut plays a significant role in hair, skin, and nails, this connection is crucial to the healthy development and maintenance of all three. A healthy intake of probiotics and maintaining a diet ensure the gut-brain connection remains tethered.



The crux of the gut-brain connection is the enteric nervous system or ENS. The ENS is the brain of the gut. The gut-brain axis is the bridge, but the ENS is home to hundreds of millions of cells that extend from throat to anus.

Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, may experience adverse mental states if the ENS is disturbed. For example, a person with IBS may experience cramps and general uncomfortableness, causing the ENS to send signals to the brain that bring about anxiety and depression. This is not only due to feeling general discomfort but also from the chemicals the body produces after the ENS sends signals to the brain. As a result, many individuals with depression and anxiety develop IBS and similar GI issues.


The microbiome helps regulate pain perceptions based on the availability of the microbiota and general diet. Furthermore, low levels of healthy gut bacteria can result in decreased cognitive functions and poor mental health. Regardless of the disease, a key sign of decreased cognitive function is large amounts of white matter in the brain.

It is vital to understand that cognitive capacity is based on the ability of neurons to send signals throughout other parts of the brain. These signals create new neural connections that assist in learning and adapting. Neuroplasticity also plays an influential role in the time it takes for the brain to adapt, in which future connections are made.


These factors, neurons and neuroplasticity, heavily depend on diet and absorption of nutrients which ties back into the ENS and overall gut health. Without absorption of proper nutrients and monitoring the gut’s homeostasis, essential chemicals such as amino acids and other proteins have a hard time making it to the brain.

In addition, once the body is low on nutrients, white matter begins to build up in the neural pathways. This buildup makes it difficult for parts of the brain to communicate with each other, thereby reducing the connection of the brain-gut axis. When this reduction happens, depression and anxiety develop, as do other negative mental states.

It is worth mentioning that the gut-brain connection grows over time, like most other bodily functions, and after reaching a peak, it will begin to decline. The gut-brain connection grows at roughly the same rate as the developing brain. Maintaining the gut-brain connection throughout one’s life requires a shifting balance of diet, sleep, exercise, and in some cases, medical oversight. The gut-brain connection is vital for higher brain functions and human homeostasis that without it, every bodily system will begin to fail over time.


There is a through-line to gut health and emotional stability. Gut health is irrevocably tied to mental health due to the absorption of healthy nutrients, regulation of appetite, and excretion of harmful chemicals and waste.


Anxiety disrupts the digestive symptoms. It can cause ruined appetite, pain, diarrhea, and poor sleep. All these conditions can lead to co-occurring conditions. For example, anxiety erodes digestion, poor digestion can lead to weight gain, weight gain can cause strain on the heart, poor breathing, etc. Because the digestive system affects so many other bodily functions, there is almost no end to the havoc it can wreak when left unchecked or poorly fed. In individuals with anxiety, digestive issues can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and cause further stress.

External stressors also cause a digestive issue, and some people may even throw up in a severely stressful situation. Overly strenuous work, sudden life changes, and other big events can contribute to poor digestive health.


An unhealthy digestive tract can cause inflammation anywhere in the body. Inflammation can lead to depression due to the high level of cortisol production. Additionally, an unhealthy diet can lead to sleep issues which also cause worsening depressive symptoms. Like anxiety, depression can cause any number of co-occurring conditions.



Restoring healthy bacteria levels to the microbiome depends on diet, medicine, and medical procedures in extreme cases. The best way to maintain your microbiome and overall gut health is to prevent it from getting out of balance to begin with. However, certain illnesses and restrictions can make that easier said than done. Here are the steps to improve or replenish your gut health.


Probiotic foods such as yogurt reduce inflammation. Probiotic foods contain yeast and healthy bacteria that balance out the microbiome by decreasing TNF-a production, a naturally occurring chemical closely related to inflammation.


Prebiotic foods encourage the body to produce the healthy bacteria required for homeostasis. Prebiotic foods include apples, bananas, berries, and other fruits. Prebiotics also contribute to an overall feeling of relaxation in addition to the health benefits that come with eating them, such as obtaining dietary fibers and important vitamins.


Postbiotic is another term for metabolites. Metabolites are the leftover chemicals from metabolized substances. Everything the body metabolizes leaves behind these metabolites, and some are better than others. Examples of postbiotics include cheeses, yogurts, and pickles. Unfortunately, postbiotics are relatively harder to come by than other biotics and, as such, require special attention to ensure a healthy amount is included in any diet.


Supplements are a great way to maintain gut health. Understanding what’s missing from your diet, such as postbiotics, is essential for finding the right supplements for you. If you’re unsure what is and isn’t in your diet, then speak with a nutritionist to develop a meal plan that’s right for you.


A microbial transplant involves taking healthy gut bacteria from a donor and inserting it into an individual with a compromised microbiome. The gut bacteria are made into a liquid and treated before being administered. A microbial transplant is most used to treat clostridium difficile colitis, also known as “C. Diff.” C. Diff is a germ that severely hampers gut health and can cause chronic colon inflammation.


A diet is equal parts knowing what to eat and what to avoid. Gut health is precarious and is thrown off by several substances. A common detriment to gut health is alcohol. Alcohol causes extra stomach acid, which impairs digestive functions. Common symptoms of poor gut health are diarrhea and cramping. Listen to your body, and if the pain does not subside within twenty-four hours or becomes otherwise unbearable, it is always best to talk to a doctor. Here are a couple of factors to watch out for when considering gut health.


Although detox supplements are not inherently bad, there is a false social perception that any detox is beneficial. While hundred of detox pills and diets are marketed around the world, only a small percentage are truly healthy. It is critical to understand that your gut is supposed to have bacteria. Any dietary plan or product that encourages cleaning the gut bacteria may lead you in the wrong direction.

Furthermore, many detoxes are little more than starvation. If a product claims to help you lose significant weight within a few days or a week, it will likely encourage unhealthy dietary trends and should be avoided. Depriving the body of essential nutrients and vitamins can disrupt the gut-brain axis and overall health. A healthy detox would be ensuring that your body has a healthy level of pre, pro, and post biotics combined with dietary fibers. Any dietary plan that encourages drinking nothing but water or avoiding meals should be approached with caution.


Low-efficacy probiotics have less than the required number of probiotics to maintain a healthy gut. Taking a low-efficacy probiotic can create a blind spot in nutrition. For example, a person may take low efficacy probiotics and operate under the impression they are maintaining a healthy gut. When problems arise down the line from these ineffective probiotics, a person may assume that the problem is elsewhere. After all, if they are under the impression that they’re taking the correct number of probiotics, why would the problem be there?

This issue creates the question – how does one know their probiotics are effective? The answer is simply that you will be healthy. A person with a healthy level of probiotics will not experiences cramping, frequent bathroom breaks, and will have high energy levels due to the absorption of nutrients.

Comparatively, being low on probiotics will lead to the health complications such as a weakened immune system, the onset of mental illness, daytime tiredness, and more. You can also speak with a doctor or nutritionist who may be able to recommend either a diet or a supplement that meets your body’s needs.



You may have noticed that being hungry can make you low on energy, depressed, or irritable. While some of these traits are attributed to just not having eaten, most of it has to do with what happens in the brain when negative signals are sent from the ENS. The brain-gut connection can prevent or reduce the symptoms of the following mental illnesses.


Anxiety is brought on by high cortisol levels, excess white matter, high blood pressure, and more. Anxiety is a co-occurring disease with addiction, sleep issues, trauma, and others. An anxiety-ridden body has an imbalance of brain chemicals that impairs other functions.

Like most mental health problems, anxiety can cause a circular pattern. For example, a person may be too anxious to eat because anxiety erodes appetite but then stay anxious because they have not eaten. Gut health, exercise, and a proper diet reduce cortisol production and increase the production of positive brain chemicals such as dopamine or serotonin.


Much like anxiety, depression causes a wave of unhealthy brain chemicals to be released. Furthermore, depression disrupts sleep and can lead to poor decision-making, lack of motivation, and reduced quality of professional and personal relationships. Gut health and a healthy diet can decrease or eliminate these side effects by boosting positive brain chemicals and, as such, energy levels and sleep quality.


Bipolar disorder is an emotional instability in which a person will feel either extremely positive and energetic or depressed and tired. Either side of bipolar disorder can last for weeks to a month. Amino acids, healthy gut bacteria, diet, and exercise all play a role in reducing and overcoming this condition. Bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed by a medical professional and may require additional medicine to help with the symptoms.


Schizophrenia is commonly classified as severe paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and a disconnect from reality. Schizophrenia is considered a lifelong illness. However, you can manage it with medicine and a proper diet. Schizophrenia can often co-occur with other disorders such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. As such, gut health and a good diet are vital to overcoming this disorder.

Maintaining a healthy emotional state and gut health requires commitment. Many individuals may only follow the routine until they feel good enough to return to their old ways. Breaking from a set diet or skipping medicine dosages can lead to returning and worsening symptoms. Remember that the gut balances healthy bacteria, brain signals, and diet, and losing any part of these factors can lead to health complications.

It’s worth mentioning that the mental illness covered above can develop through genetics or environment, meaning a person experiencing these mental irregularities may not have done anything to actively develop them. In these cases, gut health is extremely critical as it can help prevent the worsening of symptoms and help the body better absorb the prescription medication.


It is good for some individuals to monitor probiotic intake and gut health by charting it in journals. Remember that alcohol and substance use can disrupt gut health and lead to further complications. The gut is most active during the early morning and evening, and it is good practice to limit your food intake beyond a particular hour to ensure the body has ample time to digest before sleep.

The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a resource.  At Ampelis Health, each client meets with our medical team to determine treatment protocols based on individual circumstances.

If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Health or have additional questions, feel free to call.





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