What is The Gut-Brain Connection?
We’ve been coining the gut the second brain for a while now but what does it really mean? We did some research into why you should love your guts. Doctors agree as gastrointestinal issues play a crucial role in the recovery and management of serious diseases like diabetes1, autoimmune disorders2, arthritis3, depression4 and chronic fatigue syndrome5.
To start with your brain has over 100 billion neurons that are responsible for telling your body how to behave, but that’s not their only home, you also have 500 million neurons in your gut6. Gastrointestinal issues haven’t just been linked to anxiety (or those butterflies in your tummy) but research has also found that it also impacts higher cognitive functions like your intuitive decision-making process. This is why meditation and knowing destress methods are so important7.
Not only are neurons produced in your gut but hormones too, take serotonin for example, it is most commonly known as the happy hormone and is produced in the brain and in the gut8. So it makes sense that a happy gut equals a happy mind.
Inflammation also plays a key part in gut health as one of the guts other functions it to control what comes in and out of your body. The body becomes inflamed when it is fighting off infection and overloaded with foreign matter and isn’t able to regulate your hormones and excrete toxins like it’s meant to. Secondly, when the body is under stress and in the ‘fight or flight’ response mode the body reduces blood flow to your digestive system and enzymes resulting in inflammation, constipation or diarrhoea, again all symptoms of gastrointestinal issues.
Research has found that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common physical symptom of anxiety. This has been put down to a couple of core principles. Firstly, in IBS patients the vagal nerve (which links the gut and the brain) is often restricted which is often thought to be the main cause of gastrointestinal issues9 and secondly, your gut is in fight or flight response so isn’t fighting off those nasty antibodies causing bloating and digestion issues.
Daily habits that will help you look after your gut (and your mind) include:
- Eat a diet rich in fibre10
- Get enough sleep11
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress12
- Limit alcohol consumption
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