Gut-Brain Connection with Anxiety.

My recent struggle and actions towards help.

This post is personal and it was hard to admit to. Talking about it, and writing about it is uncomfortable for me. However, it’s relevant to today, August of 2018. It’s about the Gut-Brain Connection and anxiety. Harvard Medical School has an excellent article you can check out with the link between the gut and brain health, as well as symptoms of the gut-brain connection with anxiety.

My history

The reason why I’m talking about this is because it’s something that I very recently struggled with and I wanted to share my story as well as my knowledge on what you can do.

So this is not questionable.  It’s 100% fact that your gut health which is the bacteria and organisms that are in your gut affects your mental health. 100% fact. 

In approximately 2011, somewhere around there, is when I first discovered this gut-brain connection and started believing.

What happened was I was really struggling with stress and anxiety during that time and the doctor I went to just kind of said “you know it’s just something that you develop sometimes”, or it might be a “chemical imbalance”, those types of things.

I call Bullshit on that, but that’s what my doctor at that time told me.

I started doing research and found the link between the gut and brain and what I did at that moment was I started taking probiotics. About 2 weeks after taking probiotics I started noticing more, almost control if you will, of my mental state. That was the first result that I had with using probiotics.

FYI: There are different strains of probiotics and there are different pills, food, and drinks to consume probiotics.

I would advise you to speak with your doctor about taking probiotics – with your naturopath, your D.O.,  whoever that you go to, and find out what kind of probiotic they recommend. (Not all are created equal).

So I’ve been taking probiotics since around 2011 and have done that daily. I noticed that if I do not take them, then I tend to have a little bit more resistance, little bit more rigidity, little bit more struggle with the mental health aspect part.

My poor gut health today

OK, fast forward to 2018 where I have been seeing a naturopath. We did some tests on my gut and we were looking for yeast actually, and the test came back that I had three bacteria that are harmful. The naturopath was shocked to see the amount of these three bacterias that were in my gut.

And to top it off, the bacteria levels were the highest of the high, as high as the test could test for.  The bacterias were very concerning because if they got out of my gut, which can happen with leaky gut, they would have killed me if they got into my lungs. (EEK!!)

Also, over time, these bacterias would have created an autoimmune disorder, where I could have gotten rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia, or those types of things and so he was very concerned with these bacteria and said we need to start to kill them.

What was very interesting about this test is when they ran it, and they grew the bacteria in the lab, and they were also able to test exactly what antibiotic,  supplements, etc killed them. 

Because I’m working with a naturopath it was in our best interest, my best interest, to take a supplement and not an antibiotic

So I start taking two supplements that were proven in the lab to kill these bacteria that are in my body, okay?

What’s interesting is not only do they kill the bad bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria. (is that interesting or scary as F?!)

I was instructed to slowly build up to a total of 5 pills over these two supplements, with a warning it could cause an upset stomach if starting too quickly. It would take about a week to build up to full potency. FYI I didn’t stop and consider the mental health connection to the gut, and my naturopath did not alert me to this either.

I noticed towards day 5, that my anxiety started coming back.  Honestly, I felt for the past 2-3 years that I’ve really done well with the anxiety.  Yes, I struggled every once in a while (anxiousness) but overall I really kind of nipped it in the bud. It wasn’t something I dealt with very often. 

I had excellent coping skills. I had new outlooks on life.  A different mindset, you know all these things. Yet, I was really struggling with anxiety about day 5 after starting the supplements.

I started struggling with things that would never have triggered me in the past. New “odd” trigger, such as cold air, walking across the threshold into a new room, water in the shower!!

And then the things that I knew where my triggers, like I can’t be late. I hate being late to things and that is a trigger of mine in the past. With prior triggers, I was really triggered. So I was being triggered by new things as well as prior things

It was very confusing to me.  The longer I took the supplements, the more anxiety I was experiencing. And I was experiencing it daily.  Daily. 

And it was a little traumatic because I’m an anxiety coach!

I have the skill set and was still practicing gratitude, meditation, journaling, belly breathing, mindset correction, etc.. I know what to do to pull me out of the anxiety vortex. I know what’s going to work for me.

Yet, I was struggling, really struggling. 

And I needed help! It was impacting work, it was impacting my relationships, you know my poor daughter, my poor husband, Myself! I mean, even my friendships!

For example, I went to a bridal expo with several girlfriends, as one of my girlfriends got engaged. When I showed up, I was entirely flustered because I thought I was going to be late, and I was bent out of shape about it.  

One of my friends said, “you are really worked up, you need to tone it down!” While giving me an odd side eye.

And while that’s hard to hear, she was right because I was in this full anxious, stressed out, could barely breathe mindset.

What the hell!  This should not be happening!

This should not be happening, this is not OK.

So a couple of weeks later, still struggling daily, I had a scheduled appointment with a new primary care doctor.  Because I was changing doctors, I was telling my doctor what was going on (current diagnosis of the bacteria and struggle with anxiety) and I wanted a refill of Xanax because I had started taking Xanax again.

I haven’t been taking that for months and months. This new doctor is very much against Xanax. She did not want to prescribe it to me. She said you need to go back to your naturopath and talk to him about your mental health.

She asked, “Why are you choosing to struggle with this anxiety”?  “What are the rewards and the risks?” “It is worth it for you to be taking the supplements?” “Maybe you need to go off the supplements for a month or two to get your mental health back in check”.

That was very interesting to me as I didn’t consider getting off the supplements. This bacteria can kill me! This bacteria can create an autoimmune disorder that I did not want to have. This is badass scary bacteria and I don’t want it around my parts no more!

But it got me thinking, what are the risks? What are the rewards?

And I also self-advocated by saying (to the doctor) “you need to give me the Xanax”, give it to me, I know it works. She very reluctantly did that, with the warning that she will not refill it.

After the doctor’s appointment I decided to reduce the amount of those supplements I was taking to kill the bacteria because, again, it was not only killing the bad stuff it was killing the good stuff. Then I also thought about doubling my probiotics.

And I did that this week. I’m 6 days in with reducing my supplements and doubling my probiotics and already, already!, I’m doing so much better.

So much better! I’m not totally in the clear because I know it takes some time to re-establish the good bacteria (while killing it softy daily, killing it softly with supplements, killing it softy …)

It doesn’t take a long long time (to rebuild gut health) but it takes some time, right? And I’m while rebuilding I’m still killing, killing, killing with taking these supplements!

I called my naturopath after I made the reduction of supplements and increase of probiotics, and I told him what I decided to do. I wanted to know if he was okay with that. He was okay with that.

Learn from me

I guess my story here is that even when you got your shit together if you’re not taking care of your gut, you don’t have your shit together.

Things can happen.

The second part of that is to self-advocate for yourself. I needed something now right now to help with the anxiety, which was Xanax. I’m open to looking at other meds, or maybe I need to be on the hunt for another doctor that will prescribe me Xanax. I’m still in research and data collection mode here. 

The other thing is that I’m advocating for change.  I am going to go see a hypnotherapist to see if she can help me while I’m continuing with the program to kill the bacteria.

We’ll see if she can help me with easily engaging my parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest one) to calm myself and if it works or not.  I would prefer not to be on drugs, I would prefer not to take the Xanax. You know?

But when I’m being triggered by really weird things for anxiety, that’s not my normal – I’m just… That’s not something I’m OK with anymore. I’m going to fight for my happiness. 

Fourth, be aware of your mindset changing due to external news. I was told I could die. I was told I could get fibromyalgia. This is scary stuff. However it’s not true today, it’s not true right now. Be proactive and mindful of what is true right now. I’m using my coach to help with this. An accountability and supportive partner is critical for me at this time.

I now know what happiness looks like, and I am DONE with this anxiety shit. I’m just done with it. I want my full time everyday happy back.

I’m being very proactive with what to do to fix it.

Pay attention to your gut health. Advocate for yourself. Do you need to tell the Doctor, “No, you need to do this for me?” Do you need to get a new doctor? These are all things to consider. Seek help for your mind. 

That’s what my story boils down to.

Gut health linked to mental health

So we have to be aware of our gut health.

Good questions:

  • What bacteria are thriving in there?
  • What bacteria might need to be killed?
  • What are you eating that is harming your gut?
    • Did you know that sugar helps promote the bad bacteria?
    • Did you know that carbs turn in to sugar?
    • Did you know that? I now know that. (I learned it during this process). I rarely eat sugar now.
  • What medication are you taking?  
  • What supplements are you taking?
    • Is one perhaps not helping your gut thrive in a good way?

 You know, those are things to consider.

So we have your gut health, something I did not say, but I think I should, is that gut health affects the dopamine and serotonin in your brain.

Which is your happiness, your (natural) high if you will.

If you have really low dopamine and really low serotonin is really hard to feel happy. 

And for me, the trigger of low dopamine and low serotonin happened due to killing my good and (I won’t claim it) the bad bacteria, leading to poor gut health. 

Exercise, of course, works on helping your gut with the good bacteria. It also helps increase serotonin and dopamine levels. I’m working out daily now. I’m action oriented to fix this. I will not be stuck. I will not let current hiccup steal from me.  

Be open and ready to take action

And then, what outside supports can you have? I returned to coaching. I’m going to try something new, the hypnotherapist.

This post is long. It’s personal. It’s uncomfortable for me sharing this, as I’m the expert with stress and anxiety.

Starting to re-struggle with the anxiety is uncomfortable for me to admit to. But it’s real.

Yet, it’s not going to stop me.

It’s not going to stop me. I’m still going to be moving forward. I’m going to proactively work to get rid of the anxiety.

I’m over this shit. It’s time to be happy. A lot!

Since I’ve reduced the supplements, again, I’m feeling so much better. I’m still struggling with the anxiety because I’m still killing the bacteria. But it’s not on par as it was last week. I can go full days with feeling great.

Whew! I hope WE”RE OK with all this stuff here. (nervous laughter!)

I would appreciate if you would share this post to help others that might not be aware. 

And thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening.

Take care.