Do your digestive symptoms change when your mood does? Or does you mood change when your digestive symptom flare up?….Or have you never really thought about it?
To a lesser extent if you have ever experienced the sensation of butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous or anxious, then this is an example of the mind-gut connection.
Within your digestive tract there is its own nervous system. Known as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). Many people refer to the digestive tract as the second brain, due to the large number of neurochemical cells and messengers within the gut wall.
The ENS is a branch of the autonomic nervous system which has many neurons (nervous system cells) going into the small intestine and the rest of the digestive tract.
The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is responsible for:
• Moving food through the digestive tract
• Production of neurotransmitters (messengers for your brain)
• Absorption of nutrients
• Effective protection against potentially harmful toxins
This concept is known as the BRAIN-GUT AXIS in the naturopathy world. And is one of the most common presentations that I see in clinic.
So why is this mind- gut connection important?
It is vital to look at the mind-gut connection when treating any sort of digestive disturbance or any mental health conditions. Figuring out which one is triggering the other can help us unlock the answer to the symptoms being presented.
Gut bacteria produces neurochemicals. These neurochemicals include common neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are used to regulate mental processes such as cognition, learning, mood and memory and help us to maintain good mental health. Our beneficial gut bacteria manufacture about 90 percent of the body's supply of serotonin, which is vital for mainiting good moods, sleep as well as the motility of the digestive tract. Serotonin influences the movement of food through the body. When serotonin is low the motility of the digestive tract reduces, causing food to sit in the digestive tract for longer than normal. When this occurs the food is fermenting and causing gasses to build up, leading to bloating and abdominal discomfort. Increasing serotonin production through increasing beneficial bacteria levels will help to regulate this movement of food and help to reduce any discomfort associated with bloating.
The more that science learns about the influence of gut bacteria on neurotransmitter production the more likely the treatment of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression will be focused on the digestive tract and using these microbes.
So next time you are stressed/nervous/anxious and you feel it in your gut, listen to your gut instinct. Look for foods which are high in probiotics, such as fermented foods (yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha) and reduce foods which impact your gut bacteria like alcohol, sugar and caffeine.
Karah is the Head Naturopath and Founder of The Sana Co. Her passion is treating people with digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, GORD, ulcerative colitis and crohns disease. To book your appointment with Karah call the clinic on 53230267 or CLICK HERE to book online