What is the Gut-Brain Connection?
Did you know that the gut and the brain can talk to each other?
Have you noticed that when you have felt anxious or stressed in the past, this also came along with symptoms of nausea, a feeling of butterflies in your stomach, or even the runs? Our feelings and emotions can impact the functions of the gut.
Alternatively, our gut can impact our brain, and even our feelings and emotions! For example, studies have found that inflammation or dysbiosis (a fancy name for reduced microbial diversity) in the gut have been linked to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression (Clapp et al., 2017). It’s important to have a diverse range of gut bacteria because these bacteria generate hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to run important physical and mental functions, such as learning, memory, and emotions (Carpenter, 2012).
Can I Enhance the Gut-Brain Connection?
Yes! A meta-analysis found that probiotic consumption can both improve mental health and also decrease inflammatory markers (Amirani, 2020). Studies have also found that a healthy diet can increase our wellbeing (Dale et al., 2014) and our digestive and overall heath (Buttriss & Stokes, 2008). Beyond diet, mindfulness exercises have been found to improve digestive health, such as by reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (Gaylord et al., 2011), alongside improving mental health (Coffey et al., 2010).
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Amirani, E., Milajerdi, A., Mirzaei, H., Jamilian, H., Mansournia, M. A., Hallajzadeh, J., & Ghaderi, A. (2020). The effects of probiotic supplementation on mental health, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 49, 102361.
Buttriss, J. L., & Stokes, C. S. (2008). Dietary fibre and health: an overview. Nutrition Bulletin, 33(3), 186-200.
Carpenter, S. (2012). That Gut Feeling. American Psychological Association, 43(8), 50.
Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice, 7(4), 131-136.
Coffey, K. A., Hartman, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). Deconstructing mindfulness and constructing mental health: Understanding mindfulness and its mechanisms of action. Mindfulness, 1(4), 235-253.
Dale, H., Brassington, L., & King, K. (2014). The impact of healthy lifestyle interventions on mental health and wellbeing: a systematic review. Mental Health Review Journal.
Gaylord, S. A., Palsson, O. S., Garland, E. L., Faurot, K. R., Coble, R. S., Mann, J. D., ... & Whitehead, W. E. (2011). Mindfulness training reduces the severity of irritable bowel syndrome in women: results of a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of gastroenterology, 106(9), 1678.