In today’s episode, we’re merging the line between biological psychology and clinical psychology as we look at the relationship between our gut health and our behaviour. This should be interesting!
The reason why I want to look at the relationship between human behaviour and our gut health is because you hear it mentioned in different places. But no one in mainstream psychology talks about it in any depth so I wanted to look at it for myself.
Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Biological Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can get the paperback, hardback and large print copies from Amazon, your local bookstore or local library.
3 Surprising Facts About Your Gut Health and Behaviour
Gut health Influences Anxiety and Depression
When I read this fact, I was extremely impressed because it’s great to be able to link clinical psychology to gut health. And come on, it’s pretty amazing that some bacteria in our gut can influence something as complex as depression and other mental health conditions.
Therefore, this works by particular strains of bacteria have been linked to reducing anxiety and depression. With there being two classic examples of our gut bacteria that research has shown can reduce anxiety. These are called Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium longum NCC30001. A very complex name!
We found this out in animal studies that used a probiotic (a substance that encourages the growth of bacteria) mixture of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus helveticus. Then the researchers found that this increase in bacteria reduced people’s symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Which I think is very interesting if you start to consider could a new under-researched cause of depression and anxiety be a lack of bacteria in our gut?
This only reminds me why I love psychology because there is so much to learn and enjoy!
Your Gut Microbiome and Sleep are Interconnected
Interestingly enough your sleep (behaviour) is connected to the bacteria in your gut and getting a good night’s sleep helps to keep your gut microbiome healthy. Hence, showing how a behaviour can affect your physical body.
Then your physical body can affect your behaviour because when the bacteria overgrows, this can lead to interrupted sleep and disrupted circadian rhythms. As well as I talk about in Biological Psychology, your circadian rhythm is vital to sleep and it’s basically how your body knows when to sleep.
Furthermore, if people have fragmented and/or disrupted as well as don’t get enough sleep then this has been associated with gut dysbiosis. This is the overgrowth of a specific gut bacteria that can lead to metabolites that disrupt sleep and a person’s circadian rhythm.
Thankfully, probiotic supplements have been found to improve sleep quality.
Personally, I think this is a perfect example of how the body and mind can interact and how the body as well as behaviour influence each other.
Drinking Too Much Hurts Your Gut Health
The last surprising fact we’ll look at is if someone drinks excess alcohol then this can negatively impact their gut microbiome. Sometimes leading to a "leaky" gut.
Because research has shown that drinking alcohol can change the bacteria living in the gut. Since drinking alcohol can lead to increased inflammation in the gut and it can make the lining of the gut more permeable and “leaky”.
Then returning to the idea of bacteria overgrowth, drinking too much alcohol over time can lead to the overgrowth of certain bacteria as well as gut dysbiosis.
Again though, I think this is surprising because whenever alcohol is spoken about you never hear someone discuss gut health. You hear about liver, heart and other health related topics but never health.
Overall, I think this was a nice deviation from the ‘normal’ clinical psychology topics because it’s always refreshing to learn something completely new and surprising.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Biological Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library if you request it.
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Biological Psychology and Clinical Psychology References
Engen, P. A., Green, S. J., Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2015). The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota. Alcohol research : current reviews, 37(2), 223–236.