You’ve probably used the phrases: ‘I have butterflies in my stomach’, ‘I have a gut feeling about this, or ‘There’s a pit in my stomach’. But, have you ever wondered why so many of these sayings involve both our brains and tummies together?
Well, you may not realise this, but your Gut (consisting of your stomach, pancreas, intestines and your micro biome – your gut bacteria) has such a close relationship to your Brain and influences it so much that many specialists in this area of medicine refer to the Gut as the ‘Second Brain’.
Your emotional problems aren’t all in your head – they’re in your gut…
Scientific researchers have discovered that the vast majority of your neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, etc) – those amazing body-made chemicals that profoundly affect our moods – are largely made in the Gut. Originally thought to be the sole responsibility of the Brain, we are now starting to realise just how strongly what happens in your tummy affects what happens in your brain and, therefore, how you feel and what you think…
You see, your gut bacteria, in conjunction with special cells lining your Gut, produce most of the Serotonin (your feel-good neurotransmitter) and Dopamine (your risk-reward neurotransmitter) that your brain uses to make you feel emotionally well and happy. If you provide your body with the base nutrients it needs to make these neurotransmitters, and give it the sort of environment it requires, your Gut will produce all the ‘Happy Hormones’ you need to be well – and feel well too.
But, if you create an environment in your Gut which isn’t friendly to ‘good’ bacteria or which damages the Gut lining, then your body can’t make the necessary neurotransmitters to keep your mood ‘up’ when you need it.
Healthy Gut – Strong Immune System
Where do you think your immune system is? Your bone marrow? Correct. Your thymus gland? Correct again. But did you know that 85% or more of your functional immune system actually resides in your Gut? This is because your Gut is the part of your body that ‘makes contact with the world’ more than any other part (other than your skin) – so it needs to have immune power there so it can fight off any invaders right there and then. So, if you keep your Gut healthy and well, then your immune system will function properly and keep you as well as possible.
Digestion – A Tennis Court in Your Tummy
Digestion is the absorption of nutrients from food to feed your cells. Digestion primarily occurs in the intestines – both the small and large intestines – the two main components of your Gut. Digestion occurs mostly in the small intestine when broken down food particles ‘brush’ against tiny projections (micro-villi) that sit like fingers on larger projections called villi. If you look under the microscope, the lining of your small intestine is like a carpet of these nutrient absorbing villi. If you were to stretch out all this absorptive area in your Gut, it’d take up the size of a tennis court!
So, if you feed your gut bacteria and intestines with nutritious, healthy food, your micro-villi and villi will be able to absorb all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids needed to keep your cells alive and well.
But, if you feed your body a diet of junk food, lacking in nutrients, then you will create inflammation and damage the lining of your Gut. When this happens, nutrient absorption won’t occur properly, and damaging particles of food will enter the blood system making you sick.
How Your Emotions Affect Your Gut
Although the Gut creates much of the neurotransmitters that your brain uses to keep you happy, your emotions can adversely affect how well your Gut does this.
Chronic stress, depression and emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness all create physical impacts on digestion and immune function.
When researchers explored this phenomena, they got a group of subjects to experience different emotional states over a period of a few weeks and measured their peristalsis (movement of the intestines to push food through); pH (acid-alkaline balance); immune function (key immune cells created and used by the intestines); and micro-biome quality. They found:
- Laughter and joy increased small intestine peristalsis and increased the number and spread of key immune cells. These two positive emotional experiences also increased the variety and quantity of good bacteria in the Gut.
- Stress, anger, frustration and sadness all depressed immune function and slowed down the passage of food through the Gut. Of all the emotional experiences to negatively affect the Gut the most – stress had the greatest impact.
So, while the Gut produces the necessary neurotransmitters for our emotional wellness, our emotions also affect how well the Gut does this.
What You Can Do For a Healthy Gut
There are a few key things you can do to maintain a healthy Gut:
- Eat nutritious food: when you fill your diet with health-promoting vegetables, fats and proteins, your micro-villi and villi can absorb the nutrients your cells need to keep you well.
- Manage your exposure to negative emotions: Remember that stress has the greatest negative impact on Gut health, so minimise your stress. Difficult relationships at home or work, being angry at yourself and others, and placing yourself in situations where you are put down or don’t feel good about yourself not only make you unhappy – they make your Gut unhappy too. So, look at ways you can avoid or minimise such threats to good Gut health.
- Attend my upcoming ‘Gut Reset’ Workshop. On Saturday 28 April, I’m holding my inaugural ‘Gut Reset’ workshop – a whole day full of strategies and activities to heal your Gut – not just physically, but also Emotionally, Mentally – and even Energetically (those unseen external influences on us). I’d like to cordially invite you to attend. If you’re interested in getting your Gut healthy and well so you can feel great and have a strong immune system – ‘Gut Reset’ is a must. Just call 1300 853 006 to book your place. If you’d like to learn more about ‘Gut Reset’ please CLICK HERE.
If you pay attention to your Gut and eat, feel and think positively, you’ll increase the ‘Health IQ’ of your Second Brain – your Gut. You’ll reap the rewards of doing so through feeling better – physically and emotionally – I promise you.
Yours in health
Dr Zung Vu (Price)
Integrative Doctor, Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist
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