What is the Brain-Gut Connection?
Have you heard all of the talk around the brain-gut connection? Or your gut being your second brain? I’m going to break that down and help you understand why it’s so important to not only improve your emotional health, but to also look at your gut health and how they work together.
The brain-gut connection really does impact your overall health and here's how. Your gut is also known as the second brain, or more specifically, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The enteric nervous system runs from your esophagus to your rectum, and is made up of millions of nerves, and is a major part of the autonomic nervous system. The ENS is in charge of your gastrointestinal tract through the nerves. The nerves are what transport information back and forth from the brain to the gut. Before we dig deep into the brain-gut connection and why this matters, we have to take a birds-eye look at digestion. Honestly, digestion deserves it’s own post, but for now here’s the basics.
Digestion doesn’t start in the stomach. Are you surprised? When we think of the word digestion and what it means we think about the break down of food and our stomach. Maybe you think about acid reflux or bloat. Setting the record straight, digestion actually starts in the brain. That’s why it’s important to eat in a state of rest, rather than a state of frantic running around or distraction. Have you ever had the experience where you don’t remember what you ate right after eating? Or maybe you don’t remember eating something that was on your plate, but it’s gone? This is a sign that you are not in a present state. You will not digest your food well, which means you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, and then every system in your body is having to work harder.
Okay back to the Enteric Nervous System. For example purposes, the ENS is responsible for the “gut feeling” or “butterfly” response to something. Here’s the thing though: if you're eating processed foods, foods that you may have a sensitivity to, or just the Standard American Diet (SAD), then you are not feeding your body the good nutrients that it needs to have a healthy gut microbiome to therefore have a healthy brain. Your gut microbiome is made up of all kinds of gut bugs. The SAD feeds the bad gut bugs (pathogens). When this happens, it weakens the communication between your brain and your second brain. It creates inflammation in the body and it's harder for your nerves to communicate. Did you know that hormones are produced in the gut? If your hormones are off, focus needs to be put on healing your gut. Weakened immune system? Focus on the gut.
Let's tie all of this together. If you are not in a state of rest to eat your food, not eating nutrient dense foods, or your digestive system is off (irregular bowel movements, heartburn, indigestion, etc.), eating the foods from the Standard American Diet you may be experiencing a host of problems. The SAD includes processed foods, chemicals, food dyes, and artificial foods. These all create inflammation in the system and throw off the balance of nerves in your ENS. In fact, chemically laden foods and food dyes have been known to impact mood. Eating this way for a long period of time while also not taking care of yourself, leads to your ENS being off. This creates space for anxiety, depression, fatigue, difficulty focusing, energy disregulation, and irregular sleep. The SAD diet makes you sad because you aren’t fueling your body with nutrients. Your gut microbiome needs a variety of fiber, fat, protein, macro and micro nutrients to create a strong gut microbiome, which creates and maintains a strong ENS, and a strong brain.
Eat to nourish your life. Eat to nourish both brains. Eat to elevate your every day.
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