The health of your gut can have effects not only on your physical state but emotional and mental states as well. Over the past century, Western medicine has begun compartmentalizing different systems of the body in order to gain a better understanding of them. However, these systems are most often interconnected and should be understood and studied as such. The Gut-Brain connection is an example of an important and connected system. In Holistic Medicine, the gut is often referred to as the “second brain”. The gut plays a large role in the immune system responses, emotions, and neurological functions. Studies published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as Harvard Health Publishing clearly discuss the importance of further continuing research into the foods we eat and the diseases we develop. Poor gut health can lead to many adverse health conditions, that can be difficult to manage on your own. At Ballen Medical and Wellness, we treat health and wellness from a holistic and integrative perspective, addressing symptoms by finding the root of what is causing them.
What is the Gut-Brain Connection?
Communication between the gut and the brain occurs in both directions. The brain sends signals to the digestive tract about how quickly to move food through the digestive tract, how much nutrients to absorb, the secretion of digestive juices, and levels of inflammation. These signals are sent to the digestive tract through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The enteric nervous system (can control gastrointestinal behavior) can receive input from the central nervous system, or it can control gastrointestinal behavior independently of the central nervous system. The enteric nervous system contains millions of immune cells that communicate back to the brain information such as insufficient blood flow in the digestive tract, infection in the gastrointestinal tract, or whether the stomach is bloated. The brain and the gut are in constant communication with one another and can have effects not only on the state of your gut but also on your mind.
How Stress and Negative Emotions Influence the Gut
As discussed, there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain. Because of this, emotions such as anxiety, sadness, depression, fear, guilt, and anger can all affect gastrointestinal behaviors and vice versa. Gut microbiota refers to the bacteria that live in your intestines. Research shows that healthier gut microbiota can be beneficial for treating stress-related disorders. Conversely, altering levels of gut microbiota can be harmful and contribute to fatigue, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Specifically, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a probiotic bacteria, has a GABA neurotransmitter that helps calm anxiety and regulate brain activity. Increasing good microbiota in the gut can be done through improving diet by adopting a plant-based, minimally processed, high-fiber diet.
Furthermore, surrounding the gut is the gut-associated lymph tissue (GALT) which is responsible for producing most of our infection-fighting white blood cells in the body. The GALT is responsible for ensuring the toxins and microbial invaders do not pass out of the gut and into general circulation. Poor gut absorption can trigger negative effects all throughout the body including the release of inflammatory chemicals. These inflammatory chemicals can have effects on brain function and brain chemistry. Science recognizes that inflammatory chemicals are linked to mood disorders, depression, anxiety, and even attention-deficit disorders.
Improving Gut Health
Excess in sugars, processed foods, antibiotics, and medications can destroy the good bacteria that keep our gut healthy. Overall, our well-being is highly contingent on the health of our gut. Building or maintaining a healthy gut can mean:
- Improving Diet: Minimizing processed foods, identifying food allergens, increasing dietary fiber, eating fruits and vegetables, and adding fermented foods to your diet
- Healing and Supporting the Microbiome: Adding the right probiotics
- Decrease Inflammation: Avoiding food allergies and inflammatory foods such as gluten and other processed foods
- Improve Stress Management: Mental health can influence gut health. Incorporate stress management practices including meditation, yoga, exercise, and improving sleep quality
- Hydrate: Drinking roughly half your weight in pounds, in fluid ounces each day.
- IV Therapy: Aids in rehydrating your body and maximizing absorption of nutrients and other health supplements.
If you are experiencing adverse health conditions, whether physical or mental, it could be related to the overall health of your gut. If you are unsure about where to get started with overall gut health, our Health and Counseling Team can help you in your own unique situation.
Get Started Today
Improving the health of your gut improves your entire well-being– mind, and body. At Ballen Medical and Wellness, we have experts in this field who can help you find the diet, IV therapy treatment, supplements, exercise routine, and counseling that will work best for you. To get started, fill out the form below or call (720)738-8531 to schedule an appointment.