Ask a Nutritionist: On Bloating, Tiredness and Anxiety

The Gut Stuff reader:

I keep reading about microbial diversity and I’m worried that mine is very low because all of the symptoms I am getting, including bloating, tiredness and anxiety. I read about the connection between the gut and the brain and wonder if this is my problem? Should I be taking high dose probiotics to remedy this? Desperately seeking your opinion. 

Miguel Answers:

Thank you so much for your question. It is now known that the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to more than 1,000 species of microbes. Almost all of them are bacteria, but there are also yeasts and even some parasites that can live there quite happily. These bugs – collectively known as the gut microbiota – far outnumber the number of human cells in your body and fulfill many metabolic functions that help you stay healthy, energised and positive, i.e. less anxious, throughout the day. You can’t find out about your microbial diversity by reading blogs, unfortunately. To learn about this, a sample of your poo needs to be analysed in a lab, using a standardised method that enables a professional to compare your diversity with that of others, thereby establishing a comparison. Even though we’re only just about scratching the surface of how gut microbiome science can be translated into clinical advice for people like yourself who suffer from anxiety, what we do know is that scientific evidence points to high biodiversity of GI microbes being associated with states of relatively good health, while low diversity has been associated with states of disease or chronic dysfunction in the scientific literature. So the short of it is that if you’re concerned about your gut microbiota being low in diversity, the only way to find out is to test. Your results would then enable your practitioner to provide you with individualised recommendations that enable you to increase that diversity over time. This is done mostly by increasing the diversity of your diet, and you’re likely to need to work with your practitioner over a number of sessions to fine tune the introduction of foods so that you’re getting the nutrients you and your gut microbiota need to thrive. Hope this helps. 

No advice in this column is designed to override any by your medical doctor and should not be relied on as a substitute for specialist dietary advice. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your general practitioner, or medical consultant. 

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