Many of us inherently feel that our digestive system is connected to our moods. Anxiety can trigger nausea or diarrhoea. This concept is embedded in our language. We have “butterflies in our stomach” when we are nervous, or have a “gut reaction” to a person or situation.
We are now finding out more and more that our digestive system and our brain function and moods are connected. And it is not just that our brain affects our gut, but that our gut affects our brain, too.
DID YOU KNOW?
- There is a “second brain” in your gut? Your Enteric Nervous System (ENS) controls your digestive system. We have known for a while that your brain and Central Nervous System talk to your ENS, but we now know that your gut talks back.
- The Vagus Nerve is the translator between the gut and the brain. It is a long cranial nerve which connects the brain to the digestive tract, the heart, and the lungs, among others.
- Your gut makes and uses neurotransmitters, just like the ones in your brain. Chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate are widely found in the gut, and we are only just starting to understand how the amount or lack of these gut neurotransmitters affect our mood.
- Gut bacteria are also integral to the health of both your gut and your mind. Beneficial bacteria play a role in the creation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin is often coined the “happy neurotransmitter” and is the target of many antidepressant drugs.
- Inflammation starts in the gut. The gut is where we take in nutrients which can either reduce or promote inflammation. And with our new understanding that the gut communicates with the brain, we can see now how inflammatory chemicals can travel up to the brain and affect our moods.
- Elevated levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals have been repeatedly discovered in mood disorders like depression and bi-polar disorder.
- We are now learning that herbs which have traditionally been used to target both digestion and mood, such as Chamomile and Licorice, are also very anti-inflammatory. This may be the key as to why they work as well as they do.
Dietary changes, as well as certain nutrients and herbal medicines can be instrumental in improving both gut and brain health together. Get in touch with Tracey today to investigate your gut-brain health.