You’ve heard the phrase, “I have a gut feeling about this” or “there’s a pit in my stomach.” It turns out these feelings aren’t just in your head. In fact, it’s become clear that the human gut, or our gut microbiome, serves as a second brain.

The gut houses the enteric nervous system, which is not connected to the central nervous system. Made up of two thin layers with more than 100 million nerve cells, the ENS has more nerve cells than the spinal cord. The cells line the gastrointestinal tract, assisting the GI tract with food digestion, and help us sense what’s happening inside the gut.

The Second Brain
Instead of having to route digestion through the spinal cord, then into the brain and back, we developed a brain that could handle things closer to the source – but no just digestion. Because this second brain is so complex, scientists believe that the gut also communicates with the second brain.

Stress and the Gut
Did you know that stress is closely tied to your gut? When something scary or worrying happens, like someone startles you or you jump when watching a scary movie, you have a physical reaction: the hair on your neck might stand on end or your heartbeat can quicken. This is when the well-known phrase “fight of flight syndrome” take over.

Typically, if you’re in a temporary stressful situation, your body returns to its normal state. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body becomes trapped in that fight or flight phase. A constant state of stress eventually leads to chronic inflammation. This is where the mind-gut connection comes into play. Good bacteria found in the gut play a role in how our immune responses are regulated. The gut microbiome is also believed to be linked to conditions such as autism and depression after conclusive studies we performed.

There is still plenty to learn about the mind-gut connection, but in the meantime, we wanted to share some tips to help you keep a healthy mind-gut balance.

1. Add Probiotics to Your Diet
Eating probiotic-rich foods, like kimchi, miso, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut, can help your gut and mood thrive. Probiotics are good bacteria that are responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your immune system.

2. Skip the Processed Foods
The added sugar found in processed foods are responsible for a variety of health conditions, from obesity to type 2 diabetes to migraines. Shop the outskirts of your local grocery store and skip the regular aisles.

3. Bye-Bye Gluten
For many people, cutting back on or eliminating gluten has a positive effect on their gut microbiome.

4. Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are crucial to brain development. Something as simple as olive oil is easy to incorporate into your diet and includes a high amount of antioxidants that helps protect your heart, helps with digestion and is great for improving your mood.

5. Mushroom Magic
No, we’re not talking about the ones you might enjoy recreationally. Shiitake mushrooms contain a good dose of vitamin B6, which impacts the production of serotonin and neurotransmitters. B6 is associated with a positive mood and helps to reduce stress and depression naturally.

Looking to learn more about the mind-gut connection and how to improve yours? Stop into Brookside Holistic Solutions and one of our knowledgeable team members will be happy to help.