My Natural Health Blog

“Gut Feelings” – they’re real!

 We’ve all experienced them at some time in our lives…. a ‘gut feeling’, the ‘butterflies’ of nerves or excitement. We may have been told to trust our ‘gut instinct’, or had a ‘gut wrenching’ experience. Perhaps we’ve also experienced nausea, pain or an upset stomach caused by stress or anxiety about something….

(Even when we THINK about eating, our brain sends signals to our gut which responds by releasing digestive juices in anticipation!) 

So how much DO our emotions affect the way our stomach or gut feels? Actually, rather a lot. You may have heard about the “Gut-Brain connection”, this is because the gut and the brain are very intricately connected.

Our gastro-intestinal system has a large network of nerves that run along the whole gastro-intestinal tract – from mouth to anus. It’s called the ‘Enteric nervous system’.

The Enteric nervous system is not only located in the gut, it is home to millions of nerve cells and about 40 neurotransmitters; - the same type of nerve cells are found in our central nervous system and this is why the gut is often called the “Second Brain.” 

Beneficial bacteria in the gut help produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. These are the chemical messengers between the gut and the brain, and they ‘talk’ to each other via the vagus nerve and the enteric nervous system.  

“About 90 to 95% of the vagus fibres are carrying signals from the gut to the brain – NOT the other way round,” says Gershon a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Colombia University in New York. Now there’s some food for thought!!

When we are having issues in our stomach, intestines and colon, the enteric nervous system sends messages to the brain, and eventually imbalance or dysbiosis occurs and effective gut function is compromised. The gut issues could be anything from stomach cramps, pain, or inflammatory conditions such as IBS, Crohns or colitis, antibiotic or drug use, an unhealthy diet, leaky gut, allergies, digestive problems and even parasites.

There is much scientific research clearly demonstrating that when we have these gut problems or an imbalance of bacteria in our GI tract, it affects our emotions and how we are feeling. This imbalance can play a really significant role in stress, anxiety and depression, and is why eating a fresh unprocessed diet, healing the gut and feeding it with top quality probiotic bacteria is a crucial part of any treatment plan when addressing these conditions. 

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