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Thursday, 09 February 2023 13:15

Anxiety, Stress and Your Gut

Written by Azadeh Razavi, Hom., CCI
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Have you heard of the gut-brain connection?

As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I view the body as a whole, with each individual area impacting and affecting the other. And the more we learn about the body, the more we understand just how connected each individual part is.

Many people used to view the gut and brain as 2 completely separate entities, but research has now shown a direct correlation between our gut health and our brain health. Research shows that our gut function and variation in our gut microbiome have an impact on various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including anxiety, autism, depressive disorders, etc. 1

It’s not surprising then, to learn that our gut is often referred to as our “second brain”. With a nervous system of its own, studies have shown that the number of neurons in our gut (more than 100 million) is actually more than we have in our brain.

And with the majority of serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) produced in the gut, not the brain, it’s easy to see how issues with gut health can greatly impact serotonin production and its associated impact on our mental health.

I like to view the gut and brain as a 2-way street, and to treat mental health issues, we have to look at the body as a whole, focusing on more than just the brain, to break the vicious cycle.



Levels of stress and anxiety are at their highest, with 40% of Canadians reporting that they have anxiety and 39% suffering from stress.

These are staggering numbers. But from a Functional Medicine perspective, we view anxiety as more than just an issue affecting mental health. It’s a warning sign that something else needs our attention. And just as I do with every client that walks into my clinic, I look beyond the surface and instead focus on determining the root cause of the problem.

The most common causes of anxiety that I see are gut/microbial imbalances, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, adrenal issues, and hormonal imbalances.



Since there are a variety of possible underlying causes, testing to determine what could be contributing to anxiety will depend on each client’s individual history.

In addition to a thorough consultation, a few of the most common tests I do in my clinic are:

● Organic acid test (OAT) - can indicate if you have intestinal bacteria or yeast
● Saliva hormone test - measures certain hormones to indicate if there are any imbalances
● SIBO test - to test for overgrowth of certain bacteria in the small intestine
● Comprehensive stool test - an in-depth test often used if parasites are suspected
● Food sensitivity test - often paired with an elimination diet, this test can determine which trigger foods are causing inflammation in your body

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Once testing has been done, we can start to determine what treatment could help attack the root cause(s). If we suspect a particular cause of a symptom, we’ll suggest further testing to confirm if this indeed is the case.

For instance:

● If you suffer from muscle cramps and anxiety, this could point to a magnesium imbalance issue
● If you suffer from gut symptoms and anxiety, this could mean a digestive health issue
● If you suffer from chronic stress, insomnia, and anxiety, this could mean adrenal depletion

Every client I see is put on an individualized plan focused on helping reduce or manage their symptoms as we work to resolve the root cause.

This could include an elimination diet (focused on removing any foods causing an inflammatory reaction) and various herbs, supplements, and probiotics. We will ensure any suggested supplements can work alongside medication prescribed by your medical physician to ensure no adverse interaction.



As you work with your functional medicine provider, the goal will be to continue to work through any underlying causes of your anxiety. This can include long-term dietary changes (and removing any trigger foods), treating any parasites or infections, balancing hormones, supplementing any nutrients you might be low in, and working to relieve any stressors in your life.

Remember - with our gut and brain acting as a 2-way street, it’s important to look at the body in a holistic way. We want to approach anxiety with our entire toolkit of options, all with the goal of helping you feel better.

*This article is for informational purposes only

If you are interested in learning more about how Functional Medicine can help with anxiety, feel free to contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 905-361-0149 and ask for Azadeh.

Feel free to check out my other blogs at www.heartlandnaturalclinic.ca/index.php/blog-listing.

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1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6551444/ Effects of regulating intestinal microbiota on anxiety symptoms: A systematic review

Read 773 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 February 2023 16:28

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