6 Ways To Support Gut Health While Taking Anti-Anxiety Medication (beyond bone broth, probiotics, & ferments!)
Here are 6 ways to support gut health while taking anti-anxiety medication. These go deeper than simply drinking bone broth, taking probiotics, or eating fermented food. Because if you’re on prescription medications for your mental health, you need the big guns!
If you’re looking up ways to support gut health while taking anti-anxiety medication, chances are that you already know a thing or two about gut health.
You likely already have an understanding of how the gut works and how important it is to maintain a healthy gut.
- For instance, over 80% of our immune system is found in our gut (source).
- Most of our body’s serotonin production happens in the gut (source).
- Certain things, like antibiotics and GMOs, destroy gut health (source).
- Certain foods, like bone broth and ferments, help build a healthy microbiome (source).
- Probiotics are key to maintaining a healthy gut (source).
- Avoiding foods you’re sensitive to or that cause inflammation is key to maintaining gut health (source).
Yet, here you are — searching for ways to support gut health while taking anti-anxiety medication.
And, it’s not because you’re dummy about gut health. It’s because you’re smart.
Pharmaceuticals — whether they’re SSRIs, antacids, PPIs, painkillers, or anti-anxiety meds — have consequences. Since everything we put in our mouths — including pills — must be processed by our gut, it makes sense that these medications have gut consequences as well.
You’re doing all the things — drinking all the bone broth, taking all the probiotics, avoiding all the sugar. Yet, you know that maintaining a healthy microbiome becomes trickier when you’re on medication.
And, you’re digging deeper.
The Basics of Building & Maintaining a Healthy Microbiome
Let’s refresh the basics of building and maintaining a healthy gut.
These are true whether you take anti-anxiety meds or not.
Furthermore, if you’re not already aware of your gut and its impact on your whole well-being, this is where to start.
#1 — Avoid sugar, processed foods, and GMOS.
If it comes out of a box or a can, if it has a long list of ingredients you can’t read or don’t understand, or if it doesn’t have a non-GMO label on the package, don’t eat it.
This also applies to boxed and processed “organic” foods. Just because it says “organic” doesn’t make it nourishing for your gut.
On the topic of avoiding sugar specifically… this doesn’t mean you give up dessert! I eat dessert all the time, just keto dessert. Read why here.
#2 — Incorporate gut-healing foods, like bone broth and ferments, as a regular part of your diet.
These aren’t once-in-a-while foods for you; they’re a regular part of your lifestyle.
Bone broth heals and seals the gut wall. Ferments contain beneficial microorganisms that repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and yeasts.
#3 — Take a probiotic supplement.
Hopefully you know that a good probiotic supplement contains more than 1 or 2 strains and doesn’t require refrigeration.
This is crucial for maintaining that gut balance. I actually take 2 probiotics: a beneficial yeast and Catie’s Whole Food ProFlora.
#4 — Eat a diet that consists primarily of grass-fed meats, organic vegetables, nourishing fats, and some fruit.
Any grains, beans, or nuts you eat are soaked or sprouted first to reduce gut-harming phytic acid and enable your body to absorb the minerals from your food.
Plant fiber from vegetables is cleansing to the gut, provides valuable vitamins and minerals, and keeps you regular — so eat a LOT of it!
#5 — Avoid antibiotics at all costs.
Many common maladies, like ear infections, can be treated easily without antibiotics. This isn’t to say that antibiotics should NEVER be taken; they should be a last resort.
There are so many herbs, tinctures, homeopathics, essential oils, and things like colloidal silver that are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal — and they aren’t going to destroy your gut.
Unfortunately, just one round of antibiotics can permanently alter your microbiome (source), so avoid them if and when you can!
Ready to bust out the big guns?
These are the extra things you can do to support gut health while taking anti-anxiety medication (or SSRIs for depression or anxiety).
Because, honestly, every time you take one of those pills to calm that panic attack or help you sleep, you’re playing Russian roulette with your gut.
Hey, I’m on anti-anxiety meds, too, so there’s ZERO JUDGMENT here! I’m not trying to scare you.
I am also doing all of these things, in addition to the aforementioned basics, to maintain the best gut health that I possibly can until and if I can go off of my medications.
6 Ways to Support Gut Health While Taking Anti-Anxiety Medication
We’re going beyond bone broth, ferments, and probiotics here.
I’m assuming you’re already doing those things.
These are the big guns!
#1 — NAC
NAC = N-acetylcysteine. What does NAC do?
With regards to leaky gut specifically, NAC helps to detoxify toxins produced by intestinal yeast/bacterial overgrowth and stimulates immune function in the gut lining, increasing white blood cell numbers. This detoxifying action also helps beneficial bacteria to establish themselves in the gut if NAC is taken concurrently with a probiotic supplement.
Another benefit is that NAC powerfully enhances liver function through production of glutathione and other conjugation enzymes by supplying vital sulphur molecules. This helps heal a leaky gut as the liver can cope with toxins better and hence spills fewer into the bile therefore irritating the lining of the small intestine to a lesser extent.
Research has shown that oxidation may play an impoirtant role in increased intestinal permeability and that treatment with NAC can prevent this damage due to it being a powerful antioxidant. (Source.)
Bonus: NAC is also helpful in the treatment of anxiety and depression!
By balancing brain glutamate levels (an excitatory neurotransmitter), reducing inflammation, and increasing the growth of new brain cells, NAC reduces oxidative stress in the brain. In studies of over 500 people, NAC improved symptoms of depression and overall functioning after 3 to 6 months. (Source.)
#2 — L-gluatmine
L-glutamine is considered a conditional essential amino acid because your body uses so much during times of intense physical stress. It is essential for maintaining the health and growth of enterocytes in your gut since it is the preferred fuel of these cells. So if you want to win the battle against leaky gut syndrome, L-glutamine should be a go-to resource in your toolbox. (Source.)
L-glutamine helps to strengthen the lining of the gut so it doesn’t become permeable (aka “leaky”).
Unlike many other amino acids, your cells easily absorb l-glutamine because it is the primary fuel used by the cells of your gut lining (source). A generous supply of l-gluatmine will help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining (source).
When the cells of your gut lining are strong, inflammation in your body decreases as fewer and fewer toxins enter your bloodstream via leaky gut.
L-glutamine also supports the removal of waste (read: toxins) from the body, synthesize proteins, and even help you maintain a stable blood sugar.
Here is a great resource to learn more about l-glutamine and dosing recommendations.
Purchase l-glutamine here or here.
#3 — Psychobiotics
Professor Ted Dinan of University College Cork in Ireland, one of the pioneers in the field, introduced the term psychobiotics in 2012 to describe the specific bacteria that when consumed result in beneficial effects on mood, motivation, and cognition. (Source.)
Did you know there are strains of probiotics that work especially well for anxiety and depression (source)?
Doesn’t it stand to reason that if these specific strands are helpful for mental illness, they need to be part of your regimen to support your gut while taking anti-anxiety medication?
These strands include:
- Lactobacillus strains: acidophilus, casei, rhamnosus, plantarum, reuteri
- Bifidobacterium strains: infantis, breve, bifidum, longum, bulgaricus
Here are a few probiotic supplements with as many of these specific strains as I could find:
- Hyperbiotics Pro-15
- Catie’s Whole Food ProFlora (<– Save 10% with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS)
- BioKult Advanced
- Vitanica FemEcology
However, making sure these specific strains are part of your probiotic is only half of the battle.
You also need to include prebiotics — food for your probiotics.
Prebiotic foods include: cassava flour, cooked then cooled potatoes, cooked then cooled rice, Jerusalem artichokes, green bananas or green plantains, raw jicama, raw or cooked onions, raw chicory root, and raw asparagus.
I’ve been using a prebiotic supplement: Hyperbiotics Prebiotic.
This combination of probiotics and prebiotics is being called “psychobiotics” (source).
And studies are showing that psychobiotics are having a positive effect on anxiety and depression.
See? It all begins in the gut!
#4 — Vitamin C + Collagen
It’s no secret that I love grass-fed collagen for it’s gut-healing abilities. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It improves digestion and gut health, supports a healthy metabolism, promotes deeper sleep, and promotes healthy brain function.
(P.S. Our body’s own collagen production declines as we age, beginning in our mid-20s.)
The collagen I use from Perfect Supplements is tasteless, odorless, and colorless and the ONLY glyphosate residue-free certified collagen!! — making it easy to add to coffee, tea, smoothies, and more. (Use my discount code ALLTHETHINGS to save 10%!)
Healthy collagen levels have been shown to regulate proper gut acidity and heal the stomach lining — and research has found decreased collagen levels in people with digestive issues, like IBS (source).
But before you go buying a container of collagen, you need to know one thing:
If it’s gut-healing you’re after, you need to take your collagen WITH Vitamin C.
My friend Megan Stevens at EatBeautiful has written a fantastic post on how and why to consume collagen with Vitamin C. Check it out here!
When it comes to gut healing, we definitely don’t think of Vitamin C as a key ingredient to the process. But we should. Collagen can’t be formed without it. If we’re consuming collagen, but not getting enough bioavailable Vitamin C, we’re missing out on collagen’s gut healing benefits and the potential for healing this supplement provides.
And for Vitamin C? Go with a combination of food sources (red bell peppers, citrus fruits, parsley, carrots, melons, sprouts, broccoli) and one of these:
- grass-fed desiccated liver pills (<– Use code ALLTHETHINGS to save 10%)
- amla powder — easy to add to a smoothie
- liposomal Vitamin C
Please avoid ascorbic acid forms of Vitamin C, as they are synthetic.
#5 — Give Your Liver Some TLC
Our livers are an often overlooked component of gut health — because they’re our livers, not intestines or stomach, right? Well, our liver is actually a star player in our digestive system!
It deserves some TLC if you’re looking for ways to support your gut health while taking anti-anxiety medication.
In fact, Risperdal and Seroquel are two of the worst medications for your liver (source). (P.S. Tylenol and amoxicillan are also on that list!)
The liver has the hard job of processing nutrients absorbed in the small intestine, producing bile to break down fats, converting stored glycogen to glucose for energy, and filters every, single thing we ingest.
So, how can you support your liver — which will then improve your gut health, especially while on anxiety meds?
Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs, which are super hard on your liver
Employ detoxifying techniques regularly. These include coffee enemas, Epsom salt baths, castor oil packs, intermittent fasting, oil pulling, dry brushing, and infrared saunas.
Use spirulina and chlorella by adding them to smoothies, juicing, or water.
I love Perfect Supplements Aquatic Greens; it contains both! Try my Aquatic Greens Lemonade for liver support. (Save 10% with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS)
You’ll also love this refreshing Green Hippie Juice with CBD and MCT Oils!
Consume fresh or dried, liver-cleansing herbs and foods.
Milk thistle, dandelion, cilantro, parsley, ginger, peppermint, nettle, turmeric, garlic, beets, lemons, avocado, leafy greens, and MCT oil.
Consume liver from organic/pasture-raised animals and/or take desiccated liver pills.
Take a liver-supporting supplement. (Talk with your doctor first to be sure these herbs don’t interact with your medications!)
- Liver Detox Support (Save 10% with my code ALLTHETHINGS!)
- Genestra Liv Complex
- Gaia Herbs Liver Health
- Gaia Liver Cleanse
Do all of the basics for building and maintaining gut health mentioned at the top of this article!
#6 — Magnesium
And lots of it.
There’s a lot of debate about what type of magnesium is the best… because there are many forms of magnesium: citrate, l-threonate, glycinate, bi-glycinate, oxide, carbonate, sulfate… I could keep going, actually.
Magnesium is a crucial way to support gut health while taking anti-anxiety medications because:
- Meds can often make you constipated, and magnesium is super helpful with that.
- Magnesium helps promote your body’s production of GABA, which helps you calm down and relax, leading to better sleep and more time spent in your parasympathetic nervous system. A calmer person = a gut that’s allowed to heal.
This post is about supporting your gut health while taking anti-anxiety meds, so I just want to focus on the types of magnesium that do that. My two favorites are:
Magnesium Glycinate Complex — has added Vitamin B6 to help with absorption, is gentle on the stomach, and relaxes smooth muscles (hint: your intestines are smooth muscles).
I take 2 magnesium glycinate complex pills at night to help with sleep.
Magnesium Citrate — to fight constipation. I don’t believe this is the most bioavailable form of magnesium, but it will get your bowels moving. Constipation is often a side effect of many psychiatric drugs, and it’s no bueno for gut health.
I take 1-2 teaspoons magnesium citrate to help keep me regular. Your dose may differ. Start with the smallest dose and work your way up to bowel tolerance (ie. it gives you the runs), then taper back. Use my discount code ALLTHETHINGS to save 10% on my favorite magnesium citrate!
Are you taking anxiety medication? What steps are you taking to support your gut health?
This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice and care of a qualified medical professional of your choice. I’ve done enough research that I feel I should have letters behind my name, but alas, I do not. So please do your own research and consult your doctor(s) when making decisions about your health.