Keep Calm & Digest Better: The Mind-Gut Connection
When something feels off and we say we have a "gut feeling"... there's no coincidence in that phrase.
Turns out the emotional parts of our brain are reflected in our gut, AND the other way around, what's happening in our gut has an impact on our brain.
Our brains are so powerful that our level of stress can trigger a change in our gut. Have you ever been so nervous or anxious about something and have a feeling that your"stomach is in knots"or that you have"butterflies in your stomach" - this is all an example of how our brains influence our gut.
Our gut is like our second brain. In fact, there are more than 500 million neurons in our digestive tract that are connected to the brain through nerves in our nervous system. Our gut communicates with other systems in our body: our immune system, our endocrine system (hormones), and of course our nervous system via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting the gut to the brain and it sends signals in both directions.
The gut bacteria may also directly affect our brain, so improving our microbiome can improve our brain health. Remember when I told you all about the power of probiotics and prebiotics? Well there are probiotics that affect the brain called “psychobiotics” and the combination of probiotics and prebiotics have been shown to reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
When our tummies are unsettled for a long time and we develop chronic conditions like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc. it can cause our minds to feel scattered or fatigued.
So there are two ways to help it! Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet AND working on managing our stress!
MY MIND-GUT STORY:
A couple years ago I had the worst stomach aches right when I was going to sleep. It didn't matter what I ate, if I changed what I ate, the time that I ate, when I laid down to go to sleep my stomach was just unsettled, uncomfortable, and in pain. It was going on for about 6 months so I went to doctor after doctor and had test after test, but I didn't get any answers.
I heard about the gut-brain connection, read a little more about it and decided I didn't have much to lose. I began to work on my stress in an effort to heal my stomach.
I started by removing my phone from the bedroom. When it was time to go to sleep, I left it in the living room. I set a regular-old alarm clock next to my bed and didn't look at my phone again until morning. I began meditating at night and diffusing essential oils in my room. Did I still experience stress and anxiety throughout the day - of course, but I started to manage that stress I felt before bed which was when my stomach aches would arise.
My stomach aches happened less and less, and finally after a few weeks they were gone, and didn't come back!
It might be a little hard to believe, but the mind-gut connection is strong. If we heal our mind-gut connections we can improve our mood, create more positive mindsets, boost our immunity, and possibly heal other common diseases. That's pretty powerful.
Keep calm, carry on and improve your digestion!