Gut Health and Mental Health: The Connection Between the Brain and Gut
Did you know that your gut health is connected to your mental health?
It's true! In this blog post, we'll discuss the connection between the brain and gut, and how it affects your digestion, mood, and thinking.
Our bodies our complex systems but if we get the basics right, we can improve our overall wellbeing.
A guide to the Gut-Brain-axis (we're trying to keep it simple)
There's a growing body of research that shows a connection between the gut and brain. This connection, known as the gut-brain-axis, refers to the bidirectional communication between your central nervous system (CNS) and gut microbiota.
Gut microbiota are the microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract (our gut), and they play an important role in maintaining our health.
Studies have shown that there is a link between gut microbiota and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. There is also increasing evidence suggesting a relationship between gut microbiota and mental wellbeing.
So how does the gut-brain-axis work?
The gut-brain-axis is a complex system that involves many different factors.
Here are some of the key players:
The vagus nerve: This is the longest cranial nerve in your body and it plays an important role in the gut-brain-axis. It connects your brain to your digestive tract and helps to regulate digestion, inflammation, and immune response.
Cranial nerves send electrical signals between your brain and your face, neck and torso. They help you taste, smell, hear and feel sensations. They also help you make facial expressions, blink your eyes and move your tongue.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis: This is a network of glands that controls stress hormones. When you're stressed, the HPA axis kicks into gear and releases cortisol, which can have negative impacts on your gut health.
Microbiota: As we mentioned before, gut microbiota are the microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. They play a key role in maintaining our health and can influence many different aspects of our wellbeing, including mood, anxiety, and cognitive function.
Let's go a little deeper to understand what's going on inside the gut-brain-axis.
The gut and brain are constantly communicating with each other. The gut can send signals to the brain, and the brain can send signals to the gut. So what is your gut telling your brain and vice versa?!
These signals can affect many different aspects of our health, including digestion, mood, and cognitive function. Here are a few examples:
The gut controls digestion: Your digestive system is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is part of your CNS. The ANS regulates all of the involuntary activities in your body, such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. When you're stressed, the ANS kicks into gear and can cause problems like stomach ulcers and constipation.
The gut affects mood: The gut-brain-axis is thought to play a role in conditions like anxiety and depression. This is because the gut and brain are constantly communicating with each other, and the microbiota in the gut can influence the way the brain functions.
The gut affects cognitive function: The gut-brain-axis is also thought to play a role in cognitive function. Studies have shown that there is a link between gut health and cognitive function such as memory, focus, and decision-making.
So what does this all mean for you?
Simply put, a healthy gut can lead to a healthier brain. And vice versa! If you're looking to improve your overall health, it's important to take care of your gut health.
There are a few simple things you can do to help improve your gut health and boost your mental wellbeing:
Eat a well balanced diet: A healthy diet is important for maintaining gut health and overall wellbeing. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
Get regular exercise: Exercise is another important way to keep your gut healthy. It helps to promote good digestion and increases blood flow to the digestive tract.
Reduce stress: Stress is one of the biggest factors that can affect gut health. Make sure to take some time out for yourself every day and practice some relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
Take a supplement: Beneficial bacteria can help to keep the gut microbiota balanced. You can find them in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, or you can take a supplement.
Being kind to your gut can be beneficial to your mind.
Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your gut health and mental wellbeing. So if you're looking to improve your overall health, start with your gut!