The mind and gut connection – could your gut microbes influence how you feel?
Your gut is full of microbes, all hundred trillions of them are busy constantly communicating with your brain. Most of them are friendly (phew), unseen by the naked eye and living comfortably in different parts of your gut.
But what is their purpose , you may ask? Well, your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes (sounds nice). They help control your body’s digestion system and also influence your immune system.
So where’s the connection with the mind then?
” Go with your gut “, ” I felt it in my gut ” Do these phrases sound familiar to you? The sensation of butterflies in your stomach suggest that your brain and your gut have a connection. Recent studies have shown that your brain affects your gut health and vice versa.
In addition to butterflies in your stomach, most of us have experienced a rumbling anxious belly when stressed , nervous or frightened. Maybe before a public speech, or before a first date, that little rumble in your gut you may call ‘ instinct’ or a ‘gut-wrenching experience’.
Your internal communication system is referred to as the gut-brain axis. Dr Emeran Mayer ‘s book The Mind-body Connection (copyright) is a facinating read where Dr Mayar (MD) explores “how the hidden communication within your body impacts your mood, your choices and your overall health”.
The science bit…..
Some scientists suggest we should be paying attention to our mind-gut connection as it may contribute to your anxiety and digestion problems. Some als refer to the gut as the ‘ little brain ‘ but officially it is called the enteric nervous system.
Not too little, it is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract, from your esophagus to your rectum. It is believed that it is not capable of thought but can control digestion and the release of enzymes.
Your big brain however has a direct effect on your stomach and intestines. Ever thought of tasty food and automatically feel stirrings in your stomach? This is because the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. And this connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to your brain and a troubled brain can send signals to your gut.
The belief is that because the brain and gastrointestinal system are intimately connected a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or product of anxiety, stress or depression.
Resources and Advice
There are many books and studies on the subject of the mind- gut connection and plenty of resources available. Taking care of your gut healthcare starts with eating a balanced and nutritious diet with a mix of prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are found in high fibre foods, these feed and help your good bacteria in your gut grow. Probiotics are live microorganisms that supply good bacteria to your gut.
Gastrointestinal disorders can cause real mental health distress, such as anxiety and depression. Left untreated, issues can worsen. We would always recommend seeing your GP in the first instance should you be experiencing any GI or mental health issues.