The gut-brain connection is an incredibly powerful but complex system. To this day, researchers are still attempting to connect the dots however studies keep piling up showing the evidence of stress on the gut and the gut on stress.
- Your gut-brain axis
- Mindfulness and gut health
- Diet and gut health
What is the gut-brain connection in relation to gut health?
Did you know that your gut and brain communicate directly with each other? It’s an amazing thing that happens via the nervous system connections between the two.
The connection is bilateral, meaning it’s a two-way road.
- Your stress can trigger the gut – like stress and IBS
- You gut acting up can trigger your feelings – “bad” microbes and feeling stressed or anxious.
It’s very difficult to pinpoint whether the brain is being the instigator or if it’s the gut. The system is incredibly intricate and complex.
However, it’s safe to say that if you are struggling with gut problems, both are going to be involved on some level.
A lot of specialists recommend two things: mindfulness and a diet that supports your microbiome (the ecosystem of microbes that live in your gut).
Mindfulness and gut-brain connection health
There is a reason why there is such hype around mindfulness these days. It’s far from “hippy”pop-psychology! The research supporting mindfulness and stress is abundant. In addition, it is something you can do so easily and for free.
The effects of mindfulness are mind-blowing.
Vipassana, CBT mindfulness practices, or even yoga help you focus on being present in the current moment while improving your deep breathing. All movement starts with the breath so learning how to flood your blood and nervous system with oxygen is critical!
It’s also very often forgotten about in these times of high stress and anxiety.
When you practice these techniques something profound happens. The parasympathetic nervous system gets fired up. This is the “rest and digest” portion of the nervous system. Compared to the sympathetic nervous system which is the ‘fight or flight” regulator.
So it makes sense that getting that rest and digest triggered can be helpful when facing gut issues.
Diet and gut-brain connection health
The main takeaway here is – ensure you are getting enough foods that are high in dietary fiber.
Health authorities recommend aiming for approximately 30g per day. What foods contain a lot of fiber?
- Whole Grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
There are also gummy “candies” that contain high amounts of fiber if you feel that it could use a boost. If it is difficult to start that right now then increase your intake slowly but be sure to drink plenty of water.
Another helpful suggestion is to make sure you are getting enough prebiotics. These are the non-digestible parts of food that feed the microbes in your gut. These can assist your gut health to flourish!
Foods that contain plenty of prebiotics are:
Lastly, make sure to chew your food thoroughly. This can’t be stressed enough. Mom was right after all! Failing to chew your food thoroughly will lead to nausea, bloating, gas, and other bothersome symptoms that are just downright uncomfortable.
Chewing your food can also be turned into a mindfulness exercise. Focusing on being present and the activity you are undertaking only. Either way, take your time and chew your food thoroughly (and thoughtfully) because digestion begins in the mouth!
Simple ways to support a healthy gut-brain connection
Having a compromised gut can feel like a real gut-punch, but that which has been done can be undone through simple lifestyle changes that will positively affect your health using a 360-degree approach.
Maintaining a zen lifestyle that incorporates mindfulness and self-care will help keep cortisol levels down and inflammation at bay.
Catch some zzz’s
Good quality sleep is about more than just good dreams. Getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is invaluable for giving your body the time it needs to restore, recoup, and recover.
Drink enough water
Sounds easy enough, no? Staying hydrated is step 1 to a healthy gut to help protect the mucosal lining of the intestine and help all of your vital organs run optimally.
Take a prebiotic or probiotic
High-quality prebiotics and probiotics are essential for repopulating your gut with healthy bacteria to fight pathogenic bacteria.
Avoid processed foods
Processed sugar, refined starches, and fried foods feed bad bacteria in your microbiome and lessen overall biodiversity in your gut. Organic vegetables, healthy fat and protein, and high-fiber food can help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria.
You can easily check the neurotransmitters involved in the gut-brain axis here. Interested in what neurotransmitters are? Click here.
Interested in learning more about the gut-brain connection? Read more from John Hopkins University here.