How do your emotions impact your digestive health?

blog blog page clean eating Jan 02, 2023

Attention all IBS sufferers- this post is for you

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “gut health” floating around quite a bit over the past couple of years. Whether you keep up to date with health and wellness news or you’re simply at the beginning of your own health journey, it’s constantly being talked about. 

But what exactly does this mean, and why is it so important to our physical and mental health? 

The enteric nervous system lays within the gastrointestinal lining and connects your gut with your brain. In fact the digestive tract contains the largest amount of neural connections to the brain than any other organ in the body.

But if they are separate how can they possibly communicate with one another? This is all done via the Vagus nerve. Think of it as your body’s major highway from the brain all the way down to the gut. 

Research of the enteric nervous system (ENS) is now more studied than ever before, with researchers referring to it as the body’s “second brain”. 

This is because if our digestive system is not working as it should, it can have serious adverse effects on all other organ systems and especially our mental health. If there is inflammation in the digestive tract, there will surely be inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the brain

It’s important to understand how the ENS works so that we can think about the role it plays in disease, including depression and anxiety. The upside is that with this knowledge we can begin to reverse course and live life with better health.

Things to know about the enteric nervous system: 

  1. The enteric nervous system and the brain are in constant communication with one another working back and forth. 
  2. The microbiota (bacteria) found in your gut moves freely throughout this system and can act as a mail carrier to the brain. This is why we don’t want to have an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria. 
  3. The enteric nervous system can also interact with other cells including immune cells playing a large role in their structure and functionality. 
  4. The ENS secretes serotonin and dopamine which will then travel to the brain! This is a huge deal when it comes to mental health because serotonin and dopamine increase our mood

Nourishing the body with nutrient dense foods is only one factor that contributes to the integrity of your gut microbiome and the enteric nervous system. 

Factors such as stress, physical and mental trauma, along with lack of movement are also very important to consider when addressing digestive health. However, being conscious of what we put in our body is a very effective starting point. 

When looking at digestive health issues you are going to get the greatest results when looking at it from a food perspective as well as a mental/ stress perspective.

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