Gut Feelings - The Brain and Gut Connection
When it comes to our gut, it’s important to remember that it is responsible for much more than just digesting food. It actually plays a huge role in the gut-brain connection that impacts our body and mind.
We’ve all had that “gut wrenching” feeling before or how often have we heard or said, “just go with your gut”? We use these expressions for a reason because we literally feel emotion in our gut. The brain and the Gastrointestinal (GI) system are connected and work together like besties - did you know there are more nerve cells in your gut than in your spinal cord? The Vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain sending signals in both directions. Now If that doesn’t prove how much chatter is going on between our good pals, the gut and the brain, I don’t know what else will.
Now we’ve established that our brain and gut love a good old chinwag. They like to feel connected and work as one. This friendship they have is a really important one, one that is vital for us to not only understand, but also nurture. It’s important to remember that our gut bacteria have evolved with us since birth. They help us to digest our food and fight off unfriendly outsiders like viruses - so to keep us healthy, they need to be healthy too. Makes sense, right? Many researchers and scientists are working on really understanding more about the link between problems with mood and problems in our gut. There has been evidence found that a healthy gut can curb inflammation and cortisol levels and lower your reaction to stress.
So, what are our gut and brain actually chatting about? The messages sent between these two friends are what is referred to as the “happy” chemical, serotonin. Serotonin is well known for its role in regulating your mood, appetite and the almighty sleep and our gut produces an incredible 95% of the serotonin in our bodies. Now your gut microbiota, something that has been spoken about at Naked Biotics a lot, can affect the levels of chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters (don’t worry they’re not as scary as they sound). Certain types of microbes in the gut can directly stimulate both the production and release of serotonin in the lining of the colon - accounting for more than 90% (that’s right) of serotonin production in humans. That definitely explains how these little organisms have such a great impact on your brain and therefore, of course, your mood.
On the flip side, changes in the brain can also affect the beloved gut microbiota. Take yourself back to that job interview where your tummy was doing somersaults from the nerves, or when you were about to sit an exam. Well these stress and anxiety feelings that your brain sends as a response to your gut, can greatly impact digestive symptoms. For example many people who struggle with IBS notice stress to be a big trigger factor for them. Many people actually assume that the brain sends more signals to the gut, but actually, around 80-90% of all messages come from the gut. This is why nutrition is actually being recognized more as an important factor in mental health, as it's the primary way to impact your gut's microbiome.
Well what can we do to keep the gut - brain friendship going strong? The best thing you can do, is prioritize healthy eating and also find ways to reduce stress factors in your life, especially if you notice this plays out in your gut. By looking after your mind and body, you can help promote a healthy microbiome. Keeping your gut happy, means more happy chemicals!
Remember that the impact food has on your body and brain is so powerful. Listen to your body - maybe try keeping a food diary so you can start to notice how certain foods impact how you feel both physically and mentally. In uncertain times as we experience them now, we’re even more likely to be feeling anxious and stressed, which will in turn be affecting our gut and can easily throw things off-balance. Rich anti-inflammatory foods and omega-3 foods like fish can really help give your gut and brain that boost. Of course, we can’t not mention foods and drinks cultured with the strains of healthy bacteria. A shot of Naked Biotics is a really simple, yet effective way to nourish and promote your microbiome. It will give your gut the TLC in wants and needs. Yogurts with live bacteria in them are also a great addition to your diet.
It’s important to keep in mind that our bodies are very different and different things may work for different people. Your gut is as unique as you are and hopefully this post will help re frame the way we see and treat our mind and bodies.
- Ann-Christine Bee