The Gut-Brain Connection
What exactly is the connection between the brain and the gut? The brain sends signals to your GI system by way of the sympathetic nervous system, this is that fight or flight feeling. Also through the parasympathetic nervous system or what’s called “rest and digest”. These two signals can affect the functions of the entire digestive system, by how quickly your food is digested, how your body absorbs vitamins and minerals from what you’ve eaten and even the health of these organs. Your entire digestive system also has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system communicates with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. But can also function completely separate from them. The enteric nervous system is comprised of immune cells. These immune cells evaluate whats happening in the digestive system and then send that data back to the brain. Your brain and gut are in constant communication with each other in a continual loop. Thus the term “second brain” has been coined.
Mind & Body Connection
Due to this tightly knit brain-gut connection, stress, fears, anxiety, depression, negative emotions and thoughts can all physically effect your digestive system. Have you ever heard of the common expressions “gut-wrenching experience” or “go with your gut”? Has just the thought of upsetting situations made you feel nauseous? We have all felt “butterflies” in our stomachs when nervous. Your gut is also responsible for making more than half of the neurotransmitter serotonin which contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps control your internal body clock.
How to Maintain a Healthy Connection.
There are two main things that you can actively do, to maintain a healthy brain-gut & mindy-body connection. The first one is to decrease your exposure to stress, and/or your response to stress. Cause stressful things are going to happen all around you thats life right? But you have the ablity to control your response to it. Mind-body tools such as meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and yoga, have all been shown to improve digestive issues, decrease anxiety, improve mood, and decrease your stress response. A balanced diet is the second thing you can do, of course what you eat is going to profoundly affect the gut biome. Eating a more plant-based diet with few processed (anything that comes in a package) and little or no red meat often leads to a healthier microbiome.
Healthy Gut Foods
Gut flora is a term we use for the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut and intestines. What you consume will affect your gut flora your whole life. So people that eat different diets will have a different gut biome, like a finger print. Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, & kombucha, can help promote healthy bacteria. A plant based high-fiber diet with whole & nutrient dense foods is ideal. You can take a probiotic supplement in addition to these healthy lifestyle changes. But be cautious with probiotics, everyone is different and in some people if you have an imbalance of flora or “bad bacteria” probiotics will act as food for these and create painful bloating and gas. When it comes to gut flora, taking a pill can’t take the place of a high-fiber diet and an active life.
- Chia Seeds
- Seaweed (nari, in sushi)
- Wheat Bran
Did you know…
That your body can create a new gut biome, in just 24 hours – just by changing what you eat?