Has the coronavirus pandemic made you feel nervous, worried, or on edge?
You might have had an uneasy feeling in your belly over it – and that’s because a big part of your stress response happens inside your gut. And it actually can impact your health and wellness!
That stress response comes from your secret “second brain” that resides in your digestive tract. It’s called your enteric nervous system.
It’s made up of layers of cells (more than 100 million of them) that line your gastrointestinal tract, all the way from your esophagus to your rectum.
And what you eat can have a BIG impact on this entire system, and so can stress.
Your “secret brain” communicates directly back-and-forth with the brain in your head through the “gut-brain axis.”
This axis is an incredibly complex system involving hormones, nerves, body fluids, your immune system and more.
And here’s where it gets interesting …
90% of the communication goes from your gut TO YOUR brain, and only 10% from your brain to your gut.
Researchers are looking into how imbalances or irritations in your gut lining and microbiome affect not only your brain, but your overall health.
Your gut has around 100 trillion bacteria – and there are more than 1,000 known strains.
But only a handful or two of those strains make up most of the population of a healthy gut.
When these bacteria get out of balance (due to poor diet, some medications including antibiotics, stress, toxins, and more), it can throw more than just your gut out of whack.
It can make you MOODY!
That’s because your gut produces neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which have a huge impact on your mood.
And way more important than mood …
There are known links between gut issues and autism, as well as anxiety and depression, but scientists are looking into so much more.
Another example – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is super common, with as many 45 million sufferers in the U.S. alone!
IBS is actually considered a gut-brain disorder, because not only does it affect your gastrointestinal tract, it’s associated with depression, anxiety, and imbalances in the gut microbiome.
So … what can you do to keep your “secret brain” system happy – even if you’re feeling stress with all the unknowns in the world right now?
Do your best to live a gut-friendly lifestyle!
- Cut back on (or eliminate!) sugar and processed foods
- Eat fiber and probiotic-rich/fermented foods
- Get regular exercise
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night
And if you have serious or chronic gut issues, definitely check in with your doctor.
If you’re even THINKING about making some changes in your life, wouldn’t that be worth at least a conversation?