Although our gastrointestinal tracts can affect our mood or happiness, our everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from our second brain in the gut to our brain above.
If you experience psychological issues like stress, depression or anxiety, all can affect the movement and contractions in your GI tract. The result? Inflammation, infection and the inability to digest certain foods. Did you know that the reason you may be moody might be due to what your gut is telling your brain?
There is a strong link between the brain and the gut. Many in the field of health and science believe the nerves in our gut, which are actually controlled by our second brain (located within the gut), influence negative emotions, stress or anxiety. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Whether we are angry or sad, relaxed or anxious, all can trigger symptoms in the gut! The brain can influence our perception of what is happening in the gut as well as the activity or “tuning” of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) “gut brain.”
Issues in your gut can affect your energy level, weight, mood, or may lead to premature aging, chronic disease or allergies. When you have IBS, a healthy diet is imperative, but so is taking care of the mind and body.
By taking care of the mind you may help relax your body and your gut. Why would you need to try and relax the gut? Because it’s possibly your gut that’s triggering changes in your mood.
“For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems (symptoms of IBS). But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Researchers now have evidence that when your gastrointestinal system experiences irritation, it may be sending signals to the central nervous system (CNS), triggering changes in your mood.
“These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.”
“A person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.” Harvard Health Publications.
Everyone’s brain-gut interaction is different and several factors can contribute like: state of mind (stressed, relaxed), surrounding environment (pollutants, temperature), distractions (people, technology), past experiences (good and bad) and the gut’s sensitivity to stimuli. The ENS is the master controller, mixing and moving contents around the gut, via a system of complex nerves in the walls of the gut. The ENS can sense what’s happening in the gut and it then controls motility; it is connected to the brain and can be influenced by signals but it can also work solo with its own networks of neurons (nerves).
What Can You Do?
- Seek out mind-body therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medical hypnotherapy
- Talk therapy
- Gentle exercise like yoga, Pilates, qigong, tai chi, stretching, swimming, golfing, light aerobics, or an easy bike ride.
- Eat slowly
- Eat without distraction
- Cook for yourself
- Get creative
Be good to yourself –it’s one of the best gifts you can give. If negative talk is part of your everyday life, you need to start saying nicer things –to yourself. Become your own health advocate and learn as much about the low-FODMAP diet as you can. Use your Food & Symptom Diary everyday. Become more connected to healthy foods and cooking for yourself. Everyday send positive energy to your gut. Remind yourself why you are awesome. Life is full of ups and downs. There will always be hard times – have a plan in place for when disaster strikes so you can keep your gut, body and mind as healthy and calm as possible. Eat well, meditate, exercise and be grateful for all the positives in your life, and all the negatives that made you stronger.
Learn more about the Brain-Gut connection by downloading a free infographic here
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Have a great rest of your day!
Certified Nutritionist Consultant
The Brain-Gut Connection, Johns Hopkins Medicine
The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders
Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being The emerging and surprising view of how the enteric nervous system in our bellies goes far beyond just processing the food we eat. By Adam Hadhazy | February 12, 2010.
Irritable bowel syndrome: A microbiome-gut-brain axis disorder? Paul J Kennedy, John F Cryan, Timothy G Dinan, and Gerard Clarke World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 21; 20(39): 14105–14125. Published online 2014 Oct 21. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i39.14105