We’ve all had “gut feelings,” experienced a “butterfly sensation” in our stomachs, or felt “gut-wrenched” about something that has us concerned. It may surprise you to learn that these instances are not all in our heads but are physical signs of the body’s gut-brain connection. The gastrointestinal tract’s (GI) enteric nervous system is even often referred to as our “second brain.”
Your GI tract reacts to emotional stimuli — meaning whatever you’re feeling can manifest as uncomfortable gut symptoms. Similarly, your brain can react to signals from your stomach. This interconnectivity helps explain why even if diagnostic testing shows no recognizable cause for your symptoms, your gut-brain connection could be to blame. Read on to learn more about this symbiotic relationship between these two vital organs.
How the Connection Works
Your brain and GI system are connected physically and biochemically, forming a 2-way communication path called the gut-brain axis that allows these organs to speak to each other. Your gut can send information to the brain, and your brain can send information to your gut, which is sensitive to emotional changes. This means that what you feel — happiness, sadness, anger, or worry, to name just a few — can, in turn, cause uncomfortable symptoms in your gut.
A whole-person approach is needed to address these psychosocial factors that affect the gut’s physiology and lead to the following unpleasant symptoms.
- Abdominal cramps
- Loose stools
Physical and Chemical Connection
These 2 organs communicate both physically and chemically. The direct connection is your vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that carries messages via hormones and chemical substances called neurotransmitters from the brain to the heart, lungs, and gut.
Another key player in the gut-brain connection is the gut’s microbiome, made up of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut and can be beneficial or harmful. The microbiome impacts the brain’s chemistry, neural development, behavior, and even how the body perceives pain and handles stress.
Treating Gut-Brain Connection Symptoms
Recognizing this connection allows the team at Faithfully Guided to treat your troublesome GI symptoms with a collaborative method and integrative medicine, which has far more success than conventional prescription medications alone. This approach recognizes the psychological component of your GI symptoms and combines behavioral medicine with gastrointestinal medicine.
A Balanced Diet
What you eat impacts your microbiome. With a balanced diet, you can improve your gut health by avoiding processed foods, alcohol, and sugar and replacing them with plenty of whole grains, leafy greens, lean protein, low-sugar fruits, and healthy fats such as avocado.
Research has shown that you can improve your gut health and encourage gut bacteria diversity with frequent and adequate exercise, which has the added benefits of weight and stress management.
A few gut-friendly exercises include:
- Treadmill or elliptical use
The use of certain medications, such as antibiotics, and those used to treat diabetes, depression, bacterial infections, and digestive issues can throw off your microbiome, leading to imbalances. Incorporating a probiotic into your daily routine can help your microbiome stay regulated.
Stress affects how the intestines absorb nutrients by weakening the intestinal barrier, causing bacteria from the gut to escape into the body. You can minimize stress and help your gut microbiome by getting proper sleep and maintaining social connections with friends and family.
Faithfully Guided Is Your Partner On Your Health Journey
When you are experiencing negative GI symptoms, your Faithfully Guided team will not just prescribe you medicine and send you on your way. Instead, we understand the important connection between your gut and brain and recognize the need for an integrative, whole-person approach. You do not have to suffer through these symptoms — contact us today so we can help you regain your gut health, so you feel your best again.