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The Gut-Brain Connection: It Goes Both Ways!

Have you ever heard the gut called “the second brain”? The number of nerves in your gut outnumbers your spinal cord. Your entire body relies on your brain for its basic operating instructions, you might be shocked to learn that far more communication reaches the brain from the gut than the other way around! Your brain and gut are in constant communication.

Our gut is the primary site of serotonin production, the ability of gut-derived serotonin to impact mental well-being. Often called the ‘feel good hormone,’ serotonin acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter in our body. Low mood, depression, anxiety, and even autism are associated with altered serotonin levels. It is believed that our gut bacteria can both, directly and indirectly, influence serotonin levels.

The health of our brain and our digestive tract are intertwined; what goes on in one greatly affects the function of the other. Our mental well-being is similarly dictated by our digestive well-being! Nourishing a strong gut-brain connection means taking a holistic approach to well-being.

Taking steps to manage stress, exercise, eat a healthy, plant-filled diet alongside a healthy gut will help you build a healthier, more resilient mind and body. But sometimes, even after switching to a healthy diet, stress explains why many “second brain” gut-related diseases still stick around.

Stress can directly impact how you feel inside, and it can induce and aggravate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Stress slows down the digestive process, leading to bloating, gas and indigestion. The reason for this is that stress activates the flight or fight response in the body, which diverts blood flow to the brain and limbs to prepare you to deal with the perceived threat.

If you want to keep a healthy gut, you need to relax. Take moments throughout your day to clear your mind and relax, even if it’s just a few minutes over a cup of herbal tea. Your body is constantly communicating with you so make time to listen, be it through small moments of silence, a relaxing bath, yoga or meditation, your mind and body will thank you for it.

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