top of page
Search

The gut-brain love affair and why you should care

Being a woman comes with a lot of strings attached. You’re not just a mom, you’re also a nurse, a chef, a care-taker, a teacher, sometimes even an employee, and the list goes on. Yet you continue to carry all those responsibilities every single day like a superwoman! Between you and me though, it can get a little overwhelming and stressful sometimes.



being a superwoman, stress is your kryptonite

Fun fact (maybe not so…fun): There’s a link between your gut and brain due to which stress and anxiety can lead to stomach problems. Do you remember the last time you had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Or perhaps a certain situation made you nauseous? Yup, that’s what I mean. These expressions exist due to the fact that the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion.


Therefore, it’s imperative for you to understand this special relationship between your gut and brain so you can easily decode the signals your body may be trying to send you. A little miscommunication between your brain and your gut can go a long way. Literally to the point that it starts affecting your mental health. Crazy…we know!


what is "the gut"?

Before we get a little ahead of ourselves, let’s just talk about what the gut is. Biology isn’t really everyone’s forte. The gut – also known as the gastrointestinal tract or GI is a long tube that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. Basically, every organ involved in digestion of food and its procession into waste is a part of your gut. We often call the lining of the gut “the second brain.” Ah, to be a gut in love with the brain…


a long distance relationship

The gut-brain connection is like that of a cheesy Instagram couple in an LDR who post quotes about how distance means nothing when your souls are tied. While the brain and gut may be far from each other in distance, their closeness is unmatchable. As soon as your brain gets a little stressed out or anxious, the gut feels its pain – which naturally results in a physical toll on your digestive system. Similarly, if your gut isn’t healthy, your mood gets affected. They really take the “your pain is my pain” too seriously.


Let’s take a closer look at how they’re related.


The Vagus Nerve and the Nervous System

The human brain is home to approximately 100 billion neurons. Your gut on the other hand, contains 500 million neurons which bond with your brain through nerves in your nervous system. Among these nerves exists the vagus nerve – one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain.


Neurotransmitters

Interestingly, there’s also a little chemical romance happening between our two love organs. Your gut and brain are connected through chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These bad boys are produced in the brain and are responsible for controlling feelings and emotions. Your gut cells alongside their army of microbes also produce many of these neurotransmitters.


A big chunk of serotonin – also lovingly known as the happy hormone – is produced in your gut. Additionally, this dedicated army of gut microbes are also responsible for the production of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which aids in controlling our feelings of fear and anxiety.


Here’s where it gets tricky. The different bacteria, viruses, and fungi called the “gut microbiome” that have made the gut their abode, can affect the chemical messages that are passed between the gut and the brain causing problems in their relationship.


Mental Health Entered the Chat

The gravity of impact the gut brain axis has on our mental health is undoubtedly the most surprising factor of their relationship. Every emotion we feel – from the good to the bad; excited, anxious, stressed, nervous, or even happy, our gut knows about it. Every time an emotion is generated in the brain, a signal is sent straight to our gut is immediately alerted.


You know that uneasy feeling in your gut when something doesn’t “feel right”? That’s our microbiota helping us make intuitive decisions.


Gut bacteria are the A players in determining your mood and mental health – where they can relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, they can also make them worse. Let’s take a closer look on how your gut is interlinked with your mental health.


1. The vagus nerve connects your gut and brain

As the two organs have an unbreakable bond, it implicates that the gut-brain axis is a crucial player in mental health, illnesses that affect the brain, and also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is why every time you’re stressed, you start having digestive problems and similarly why digestive problems can lead to a grumpy mood.


2. Gut bacteria talk to your brain too

Gut bacteria are responsible for breaking down the food you eat – particularly the dietary fiber, and then transform it into metabolites. The nerves detect these metabolites and tell the brain to give the green light for digestive processes.


Now when you’re having one of those overwhelmingly stressful days, the vagus nerve gets impaired and is unable to react effectively to inflammation. Naturally, this is bad for your gut and the bacteria living in it.


3. Microbiome diversity is key

The microbiome in your gut need to be diverse because it helps maintain the balance. What happens if it’s unbalanced? Something called dysbiosis – opportunistic microbes see that as their cue to proliferate and cause inflammation. Yeah, it’s as ugly as it sounds.


Your body is not at all pro-opportunistic bacteria. Therefore, your immune system is alarmed immediately, which consequently results in inflammation. Where’s depression in all this? Well, inflammation has actually been known to be a contributor to depression, and depression a cause for inflammation. It’s a nice (not really) two-way street.


The good news is that you can prevent inflammation through microbiome diversity – which can be achieved through a well-planned diet.


Once you have your inflammation under control, it will help boost both your mood and levels of anxiety.


4. The butyrate effect

Every time you have that little self-care moment and eat plans – like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes – your good gut bacteria produces butyrate (an essential short-chain fatty acid). This keeps both your gut and brain happy.


Butyrate is the main source of fuel for the cells in your gut lining – thus eating plants helps keep this barrier intact. Everything in your digestive system is linked one way or another; thus, a strong gut lining helps prevent inflammation.


5. Gut microbes manage happy hormones

You already know how cool these bad boys called gut microbes are. You know how they transform food into short-chain fatty acids? Well, these SCFAs chat up with your cells which produce serotonin – your happy hormone!


In a Nutshell

Due to a poor lifestyle and diet, your gut can become very unhealthy overtime. This ultimately affects the gut bacteria and reduces the production of serotonin. Naturally, your levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and all other negative emotions start to rise which results in a constant irritable and depressive mood.


When your gut is unhealthy, and the microbiome imbalanced, you start to have different gut-related issues. These can be anything from an inflammatory gut, leaky gut syndrome, gut dysbiosis, SIBO, irritable bowel syndrome, and candida.


These conditions damage the communication towers built for the interaction of your gut and brain. The brain doesn’t like this hampering because it now gets information through a neural pathway. To show its anger, the brain reacts with behaviors like irritability, panic, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.


Pro tip: Don’t mess with the brain unless you’re ready to face the depressing consequences.


We know that being an overworked woman, you might forget to check in with yourself from time to time. Once you understand how your gut and brain are interlinked, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself and always be on the lookout for the red flags your body keeps showing you.


When you eat good, nutritious food, it makes your gut healthy and happy. Consequently, there are no communication barriers between the gut and the brain either. Nutrients we get from food are effectively synthesized and you start feeling energized and satisfied.


Another way to make sure that your gut is happy and healthy is to take supplements that boost gut health, regularly. These help balance the microbiome and supply you with adequate vitamins and minerals to keep you safe from gut issues.


Having a healthy gut will not eradicate all the problems in your life. However, it will help lighten your burden. You cannot eliminate stress from your life, but with the right diet you can trick your body into producing more mood-lifting chemicals!


Remember that as long as you keep your gut happy and healthy, your brain will be happy too.


All the best,



Comments


bottom of page