The Mind-Gut Connection

An ever-growing problem in the United States is digestive disorders. According to some surveys, it is estimated that up to 74% of people living in the US suffer from bowel discomfort several times a month. IBS, Crohn’s, Celiac, GERD, Colitis, Diverticulitis, and others are among the most prevalent issues.

There are several contributing factors to this growing epidemic:

  • Eating too fast
  • Not chewing food enough
  • Rushing away from the dinner table too quickly
  • Eating on the go
  • Lack of fiber
  • Stress and other emotional distress or pressure

Stress and other emotional factors are one of the top contributors to digestive distress. In American culture, stress is on the rise and so are digestive problems. This is not a coincidence. These two issues are highly correlated.

The gut is frequently referred to as the “Second Brain”, and there is a lot of science to support this.  Our digestive system is also known as the enteric nervous system. Within this system, it is full of neurons. In fact, there are more neurons in your “Second Brain” than in your spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. This system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters (just like the brain does), and contains 95% of the body’s serotonin. Commonly known, serotonin has a big impact on mood. Once this connection is made, it becomes easier to comprehend why stomach problems truly can upset an individual’s mood. Equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the stomach digests, absorbs, breaks down, excretes, and has its own sensations all created from the neurons in this system alone. In short, the digestive system functions without the middle man of the central nervous system-which is really quite amazing!

Now that you have a little more awareness of the role that stress plays in digestive health and the amazing connection between the gut and mind, let’s discuss a few emotional health tips that will surely have your “Second Brain” thanking you.

  • Do your best to not “take on other’s emotions.” It is good to be empathetic and compassionate towards others, but do not let others negative emotions and burdens impact your physical and emotional health for the wrong. Learn when to help and get involved and when to take time for yourself.
  • Let go of things that you can’t change. Some things are left best in God’s hands.  Whether it be a relationship that isn’t going the way you want, a body image problem you can’t seem to shake, longing for the future, or anything else on the infinite list of things outside of our control. Fix what is within your reach. And learn to let the rest go. Learning this will be a lifelong process, so be patient with yourself as you do so.
  • Get enough sleep each night. People typically need about 6-9 hours of sleep each night.  Find out how much sleep you personally need to function well, and aim for that amount each night. The results will be noticeable.
  • Forgive yourself and forgive those around you. Harboring intense and negative thoughts and feelings will be felt in your gut and can literally make you sick. Talk through your feelings and once you have done so, turn to God and he will help you let them go.
  • And perhaps most importantly, learn to love yourself. By loving yourself you will treat yourself more kindly and healthily, both in body and mind. By understanding this, it will truly be felt and even understood in your gut.

So, the next time you feel “butterflies” in your stomach notice them and think about what your gut is trying to tell your mind. There is a huge connection between the two.

 

Sources

How The Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being