Can Your Gut Actually Communicate?
Written by: April Norris
“I have butterflies in my stomach.”
“I have a gut-feeling.”
“I feel sick to my stomach.”
“Go with your gut.”
We’ve all heard these phrases or experienced these feelings at some point in our lives. Although it’s rather comical to imagine actual butterflies floating around in your belly, these expressions represent the interconnectedness of our intestinal tract and emotional state.
Your “Second Brain”
The digestive tract is considered to be your “second brain.” Also known as the enteric nervous system, your intestines are home to about 100 million neurons – that’s more nerve endings than your entire spinal column!
This region in our body secretes many neurotransmitters that are crucial to our emotional well-being, helping with the balance of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, just to name a few specific hormones.
One of the largest and most important nerves in the body – known as the vagus nerve – is responsible for sending massive amounts of information from your digestive system up to your brain. There are many scientific studies that have linked mood problems to digestive issues.
Protecting Your Second Brain
In order to keep this second brain functioning at optimal levels, we must look at the micro-biome. The interplay of the trillions of microbes living in your intestines has garnered great attention in recent years – and for good reason!
Medical researchers are discovering that the bacteria in your intestines communicate with each other.
We are outnumbered by bacteria to human cells 10:1, so it’s imperative we give these little buggers the consideration they deserve. A proper (or improper) microflora balance can drastically influence your emotional state, affecting how you handle stress, your propensity towards anxiety, depression and levels of irritability or anger.
Did you know that 95% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut?
The ideal microbiome balance for proper mood stability is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria (believe it or not, having a little bit of bad bacteria in there is actually GOOD for you!). If you struggle with symptoms like gas, bloating, nausea, sugar cravings, constipation, or diarrhea, it’s a sign that you need to love on your intestines a bit more.
Coming full circle, what we choose to put inside our stomachs inevitably correlates with our emotional health. The most effective way to nourish your second brain is through probiotics.
These may either come in pill form or directly from adding specific foods to your diet. Excellent sources of probiotics include fermented and cultured foods/beverages like sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.
So next time your gut is talking to you, take a listen. It knows more than you think.
April Norris is a Certified Holistic Health Consultant and a Certified Pilates Instructor. She specializes in digestive health, food sensitivities and helps her clients identify hidden sources of inflammation. April received her Holistic Health Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is Board Certified through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She earned her Pilates Certification through Body Arts and Sciences International.
April is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Natural Health Sciences, furthering her studies in holistic nutrition, detoxification, herbalism, aromatherapy and homeopathy. April leads online group programs and webinars, as well as provides one-on-one health and wellness counseling.
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