The Surprising Connection between the Gut and the Brain
Imagine this: you are moments away from a crucial interview or a huge presentation; A strange tingling sensation brews in your stomach as if butterflies are flitting inside.
I’m sure you’ve felt this in other crucial moments of your life.
The “butterflies in your stomach” is more than just a figure of speech; there is a scientific explanation of why your stomach does it. It goes farther up north as it has something to do with your mental health.
Understanding this uncanny connection between your gut and brain is necessary for maintaining a healthy physiological and mental health.
The Nervous System: Your Body’s ‘Electrical Wiring’
A network of nerves and fibers, the nervous system sends impulses between various body parts.
The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is the hub, and the peripheral nervous system is the link to other organs and muscles.
The gut has its own brain known as the enteric nervous system. This second brain regulates the release of enzymes that break down food and controls blood flow that aids with nutrient absorption to expulsion.
The Gut-Brain Axis: the Information Superhighway
The brain has a direct effect on the gut and vice versa.
A troubled intestine can signal the brain, just as an unsettled brain can signal the gut. This is clear in the gut microbiota composition; your stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
Now you know why you might have nausea before a presentation or have intestinal pain when stressed. When you’re nervous before a stage debut or big meeting, your brain communicates that anxiety to your gut. This is all made possible by the gut-brain axis crosstalk.
The chemical messengers of the body, neurotransmitters, also connect your gut and brain through neurotransmission.
Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions. Serotonin is one example that contributes to feelings of happiness.
Interestingly, your gut cells and the trillions of microbes living there also produce a large portion of serotonin.
Your gut microbes also form a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety.
Gut Microbes Affect the Brain Through Other Chemicals
The trillions of microbes that live inside your gut also make other chemicals that affect how your brain works.
Your gut microbes produce a lot of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as:
They make SCFA by digesting fiber. SCFA affects brain function in several ways, such as reducing appetite.
Gut microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids to produce other chemicals that affect the brain. Bile acids are chemicals made by the liver that is linked in taking in dietary fats.
However, they may also affect the brain. Two studies in mice found that stress and social disorders reduce bile acids by gut bacteria and alter the genes involved in their production.
Top 3 nutritional hacks to improve your gut health
Realizing that your gut microbiota influences your mental health, you must look at how to keep a healthy composition of bacteria in your gut.
Let’s have a look at three players involved in keeping your gut healthy.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts which help keep your digestion in check. They are akin to the bacteria already lying in your gut.
Probiotics help your body keep a healthy microbiota or help restore it to a healthy condition after being disturbed. They help prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal problem.
Studies in laboratory mice have shown that certain probiotics can increase the production of GABA and reduce anxiety and depression-like behavior.
Here are food sources rich in probiotics to add in your diet:
- Fermented vegetables
- Coconut kefir
- Sourdough bread
Prebiotics are dietary fiber promoting growth for the good bacteria in your gut. This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells leading to a healthier digestive system.
Prebiotics can also boost probiotics, hence they can become a powerful combo when combined.
These nutrients include short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate. The bloodstream can absorb these fatty acids and improve metabolic health.
Include these prebiotic-rich foods listed below in your diet:
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Spring onions
- Whole grains
Antibiotics help treat issues by fighting off the bad bacteria in your gut.
Sometimes antibiotics eliminate even the good bacteria in your gut in their efforts to fight infection.
Studies have shown that after even six months, good bacteria eliminated by antibiotics are still absent in your gut.
Take antibiotics only when prescribed by the doctor to prevent health concerns that may lead to antibiotic resistance.
How Lotus Healing For You – Life and Wellness Coaching can Help
Here at Lotus Healing For You, we help our patients understand what they can do to heal in a holistic way and be the best version of yourself.
As an integrative practitioner and wellness coach specializing in the use of Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM).
Using my education and experience relating to psychology, functional nutrition, biofeedback, and integrative medicine I can help you to place emphasis on complementary and alternative approaches to healing in the treatment process.
I have an in-depth working knowledge of nutrition and tips to share with my patients. Here are some of my few tips for you to get started today:
- Eat whole foods and avoid packaged or processed foods
- Always go for natural sweeteners; eat citrus fruits
- Increase your daily servings of fruits and vegetables
- Include probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt (avoid fruit-based yogurt, which is high in unwanted sugars)
- Eat foods rich in fiber
- Replace sweet treats and sugary desserts with a serving of fresh fruit and dark chocolate
- Avoid processed and packaged foods that are high in food additives and preservatives that disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Reach out if you think you may have some concerns about your gut health that you would like to address with us!
Remember, our discovery sessions are always free of charge!