Written by Alison Bell
We’ve all experienced, ‘that’ gut feeling… The feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that tells you something’s wrong, right, amazing or just plain silly. Well, it turns out – it’s actually more than just a feeling.
The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness and happiness. ‘How?’ you ask… When any emotion is felt, it triggers symptoms in the gut that are often described as butterflies, nerves or nauseousness. This happens as a result of our brain and gut being intricately linked. The simplest way to explain it, is that the vagus nerve, which runs from our abdomen to our brain stem, links the brain to the gut carrying messages from one to the other in both directions. Via this vagus nerve, a troubled brain can send messages to the gut – just as a distressed gut can send messages to the brain. This explains how, when stressed or anxious, we’ll often get ‘that sick feeling’ in our stomachs.
The knowledge of the link between the brain and the gut should not, however, cause people to doubt what they are feeling. As far as symptoms go – these ‘nerves’ and ‘butterflies’ are not just a result of one’s emotions/thought patterns. While the brain plays a part in the presence of these feelings and they are undoubtedly psychological, it is also a known fact that depression or anxiety can impact the physical movement and contraction of the GI tract and can cause inflammation.
Our awareness of the communications taking place between our brain and gut also puts our diet under the microscope. If our brain can impact the way our gut functions, then surely our gut can impact the way our brain functions. The vagus nerve does provide both with a direct form of communication after all… And it goes both ways.
So, now that we know that the gut can impact our mental state – and vice versa, what can we do to help both support each other through their somewhat long distance relationship?
We can start by
- avoiding processed foods,
- limiting refined sugars
- limiting caffeine
- avoiding antibiotics (unless completely necessary),
- Implement techniques to limit stress
- including prebiotic and probiotic rich foods in our diets
- DRINK BONE BROTH EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Bone broth is incredibly healing. It provides important minerals and vitamins that promote healthy gut flora and is an easy, tasty way for our bodies to absorb these minerals. The gelatin within bone broth and anti-inflammatory properties within the nutrients also mean it is great for our joints and, more relevantly to this article, soothes and heals the gut.
By no means are we claiming that if you tick off the above list, you will forever live a healthier life. There are so many elements of your daily life that can affect your overall health, but if you DO tick off the above list, you’re certainly off to the right start – and your gut, and your brain, will thank you for it!
Fascinating isn’t it? How the human body works, how we get to learn something new about it almost every day – and how the gut is the centre of so many things. I don’t know about you, but it just makes me want to look after my gut even more!