Gut Brain Connection
Have you noticed how many phrases we use to link the gut to our mood and feelings? Let’s talk more about this Gut Brain Connection!
When you are nervous you might say you have “butterflies” in your stomach.
If you are very stressed or concerned about something you might say that you feel “sick to your stomach”
If you are highly distressed or upset about something its “gut wrenching”
And when you feel confidence in you decisions you have a “good gut feeling” about it.
Seem strange? Well not really! There is actually a much bigger link between your gut and your mood than you might realise!
Understanding the Connection
Our gut is connected to the brain via the Vagus nerve. This forms a 2 way link where the health and wellbeing of one directly impacts the other. Your gut health actually has a significant effect on your mood. And, your emotions also have a direct impact on your gut and digestive system.
The gut is affectionately referred to as the “2nd brain.” It is filled with millions of nerve cells and trillions of microorganisms. They are responsible for influencing functions in your body and communicating messages to your brain about mood. This “2nd brain” also plays a huge role in the production and modulation of hormones too.
Serotonin is one of these hormones directly linked to your gut health! Serotonin is found in the brain and is also known as the “happy hormone”. It is one of the primary hormones that is responsible for stabilising mood, happiness, joy and feelings of wellbeing. It also helps to regulate sleep, our appetite and also helps inhibit pain. An interesting thing to notice here is that while it is found in the brain and is responsible for mood – it is actually a hormone that is produced in the gut! This is one reason why gut health is a really key part in mental wellbeing!
Stress is a massive impact on overall gut health! Your brain literally sees stress as a warning sign for impending danger. In response it triggers all the ‘flight/fright/freeze’ responses in the body and shuts down functions that it doesn’t see as a priority while it is in danger. One of the impacts is to turn off the parasympathetic nervous system and prioritise other functions in the body. Unfortunately this system is necessary for a normal, healthy digestion. Stress then has a direct impact on the digestive function and overall gut health.
How To Improve Your Gut Brain Health for General Well Being
There are some really simple steps you can take now to improve the gut brain connection! Start with helping your gut health and improving it’s impact on your mood.
- Include good sources of gelatin in your diet. It has incredible gut healing properties! You can include stocks and bone broths, DIY gummies or a collagen powder in your smoothie.
- Look after your oral health. It is really the start of your gut health. In clinic we stock Grants natural toothpaste and tongue scrapers. Whatever brand you choose is fine – just make sure you are removing bad bacteria from your mouth.
- Introduce fermented foods into your diet. There are great DIY options and plenty of premade products too. You can read my previous blog on ferments here
- Try to reduce stress and its impact on your body. Get adequate sleep, prioritize rest and learn helpful breathing or movement techniques.
- And, have fun learning how to stimulate your Vagus nerve! Humming, singing chanting or gargling are all effective ways to stimulate the Vagus nerve by vibrating the muscle fibres. You can also notice where your tongue sits too. The tip of your tongue should rest on the roof of your mouth, this pressure also stimulates the Vagus nerve (this is why babies and small children might suck their thumb when they are stress, sad or overwhelmed).
For further support you can also look in to seeing Craniosacral therapy to work with the nerves in the skull that include the Vagus nerve.
I would also love to see you in clinic to talk about Gut Health! It is one of my favourite topics and I love seeing the results in people’s ongoing health when they take control of their gut health and of the Gut Brain Connection!