Good Mood: The gut brain connection
Those feelings of butterflies when you see your crush? Or an upset stomach before a performance on stage? Our brain and our gut (digestive system) work together closer than we think, and when one is off kilter, we can often experience symptoms elsewhere. For many of my clients, they come into nutrition clinic fed up of symptoms that affect their digestion; constipation, acid reflux, bloating, gas pains or loose bowels. We start to take inventory and realize their symptoms are often triggered by stress, whether it is underlying and subconscious stress, or a traumatic event. Below I am talking about three common scenarios I see in my clients. The good thing is all are modifiable with small, sustainable changes to our diet and lifestyle and symptom reduction is possible.
Concept 1: THE MMC
Motility motor complex – we often think gravity takes food from mouth to bum, but in fact the journey is like a very long windy country road. A muscle movement, known as the motility motor complex, uses peristalsis muscle contraction to move food along. This helps things move along in a timely manner. This movement works in a fasted and relaxed state. When does it not work well? When we are stressed or in a fed state. What can happen when the MMC isn’t working well? If we are constantly stressed or snacking, food becomes stagnant which is a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. And NOT the beneficial bacteria that supports our health, but often bacteria that can cause symptoms and dysregulate the environment of our GI tract. This overgrowth is known as SIBO or dysbiosis, and it is the root cause of 80% of IBS complaints.
Concept 2: A garden, an ecosystem!
I often explain our microbiome as a garden. We want species that support the overall ecosystem (basil, strawberries, cedar trees; those who feed the bees and produce oxygen!) but what can happen is invasive and opportunistic species can, under the right circumstances, take over. When that happens – our ecosystem is disrupted and doesn’t work as well (think: immune system, digestion and nutrient absorption, neurotransmitter synthesis). Often, species that disrupt are known as yeast, parasites, and pathogenic bacteria. They can overpopulate our large intestine and when that happens – we can feel symptoms AND our body won’t be able to synthesize nutrients and neurotransmitter responses or support the gut brain axis. So, focusing on a strong ecosystem is important. Whole foods, fibres and polyphenols support the beneficial bacteria to thrive. When they are thriving, it is harder for the invasive species to populate.
Concept 3: Immunity!
About 70% of our immune cells are in our GI tract. Not only that, but our GI tract is supposed to have a barrier function – allow us to eat and drink, absorb nutrients, synthesis nutrients and then eliminate the food. The lining of the GI tract plays a big role in interacting with what is friend and what is foe and can set off many chemical messengers and alarm bells, which can trigger an inflammatory response. This is useful as a one off, if there is a parasite or bacteria, but our immune systems often get overstimulated by common allergens, additives, preservatives and refined, processed vegetable oils. Calming our immune system down starts with reducing inflammation in our GI tract.
These are three simple concepts that can change the way our GI tract function, for better quality of life and disease prevention. If you are interested to learn more about gut health, or get a comprehensive gut analysis, reach out to our Nutritional Therapist, Sarah Wight to join our 2 month Nutrition Reset Program.