What your poo has to do with your mental health (yes, seriously!)

I know you might think this is a bit far fetched, but I promise you it's not. You NEED to consider your gut health (including your poo and bowel movement regularity) if you are trying to get better, whether that's physically or mentally. Here's why!
poo mental health

I am not running out of ideas for blog posts if that’s what you might think. Talking about your poo in connection to your mental health isn’t whacky or hocus-pocus either. To prove that straight away, just look at the following fascinating study result.

The mental health benefits of receiving a healthy person's poo

In this study published in 2018, 17 patients that either suffered from IBS, chronic constipation or chronic diarrhoea received a fecal microbiota transplant. What’s that? It’s literally the process of giving bacteria and other microbes from the stool of a healthy individual to someone else. The donor stool is simply infused into the recipient’s large intestine… funny hey?

But turns out that within this study, 12 out of the 17 patients experienced significant improvements in their depression, anxiety and sleep symptoms! And this was regardless of any gastrointestinal symptoms changes. 

So for 12 out of these 17 people their mental health improved after receiving stool samples from a healthy individual. That’s remarkable!
And by the way, it is known that people with depression tend to have lower microbial diversity than people not suffering from depression. 

A great example why your poo and the state of your microbiome matters!

why I always cover gut health in my clinic

In my work with clients I always ask about their bowel movements. The consistency, the colour, the bowel movement frequency, even the smell. They tell me whether they experience diarrhoea or constipation or indeed both. Whether there is pain, a sense of urgency or the worry that toilets aren’t nearby when they leave the house. 

And depending on symptoms, I often order a stool test too. Why? So that I can have a better understanding of their gut health, digestion and the state of their microbiome. 

And why does this matter when my clients come to see me for their mental health? Here are a few reasons:

why your poo and mental health are linked

  • If you are constipated, there’s a risk you are reabsorbing toxins into your circulation that should have been excreted. And an overburden of toxins in the body is implicated in many conditions, including mental health.
  • If you are constipated and stool is difficult to pass, it gives you SO MUCH valuable information about your diet and water intake. Don’t dismiss it! Your bowels and yes your mental health might benefit from a change to your diet.
  • This study showed that the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders in constipated people is much higher than in the general population.
  • If you are suffering from runny and perhaps even “explosive” diarrhoea, it’s an indication of inflammation within your gut. And those inflammatory markers can be affecting your brain too!
  • Particularly with diarrhoea, there is a risk of nutrient malabsorption because your body might be struggling to absorb the nutrients from your food efficiently. And nutrient deficiencies are hugely linked to mental health problems such as depression.
  • This fascinating 12 year study with 1,002 people showed that there’s a bidirectional relationship between chronic gut problems and anxiety. It showed two things:
  • 1) People with anxiety had a much higher risk of developing chronic gut issues later on.
    2) But it also showed that those people who first had chronic gut issues (with no anxiety to start with) had a higher risk of developing anxiety later on. 
    So there’s a really important message here. We can improve our mental health by focusing on our gut health! Just as we can try to reduce for example a nervous stomach by reducing our stress levels.
  • And then there’s the big world of the microbiota. All the microbes that reside within your gut (and in your poo) have so much more to do with your overall health and mental wellbeing than we realise. A fascinating area of research and no doubt there’ll be more on this topic here soon.

Two other resources to learn more about why poo matters

Over on this site you’ll see a great Bristol Stool Chart to check what a healthy bowel movement should look like. If you’ve never seen this stool chart make sure to take a look!

And below is just a quick and very fun short video about a laboratory in Canada that deals with stool samples and why that matters.

If you are experiencing gut symptoms and are thinking that they are linked to your mental health, let me know. And if you are interested in working with me, take a look at my consultation packages here.

poo mental health

Welcome to the blog

I’m Claudia Smith and I help women get to better mental health naturally. Having overcome depression once myself, I am a qualified nutritionist, coach and practice functional medicine.

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