Your Stomach Has A Direct Hotline To Your Brain, And It Uses It Often
- 6 mins read
- Health Conditions
- Dr. Pramod Mane
Stress and unhappiness are an inescapable fact of life. More of the former makes for less of the latter. And both of them together can take a great toll on your immunity.
Not just your everyday stress, even mental health issues like depression and anxiety can adversely affect your immunity and general wellbeing. But all of these negative factors don’t have to ruin your life. Though it’s much harder to tackle mental health issues, everyday stress can be managed with healthy routines. Even more important though, in either case, studies have shown that improving your gut health can improve your mental state.
The gut-brain axis and its effects
There’s a steady stream of communication between your central nervous system and your microbiota, the diverse set of trillions of microbes in your gut. Scientists call this the ‘gut-brain axis’. For instance, your brain sends signals to your stomach to release digestive juices when you’re eating. Similarly, it’s also why a stressful situation can make you feel a pit in your stomach, or excitement makes you feel butterflies.
Just as your stomach is sensitive to signals from the brain, so is your brain sensitive to signals it receives from the stomach. In recent times, much effort has been put into just how much this exchange of communication affects parts outside the gastrointestinal system.
In the past, inflammation and the reduction of the microbial diversity in a person’s gut have both been linked to causing several mental illnesses like anxiety, schizophrenia, and depression. As such, it’s been theorized that probiotics can potentially be used to treat mental illness, up to a certain point.
In patients with gastrointestinal disorders, it has been shown that their physical condition influences both their stress levels and their pain receptors. This fact has been proven by multiple studies that have shown how such patients have improved greatly when psychological treatment was added to their conventional medical treatment route.
How do I manage my gut health?
There are a few simple ways to keep your stomach and its microbes in the best possible health.
- High fiber foods like broccoli, peas, bananas, and avocados help aid your digestion and regularize your stools.
- Probiotics and probiotic foods like yogurt, onions, and apple cider vinegar are one of the best ways to restore your gut microbes.
- Collagen-rich foods like spinach, kale, and salmon will help protect your intestinal walls from damage.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like flax seeds help reduce gastrointestinal inflammation.
- But above all, you need to relax. Your body has to be able to wind down in order to produce the gastric juices that aid the digestion process.
The gut-brain axis is part of the reason why people suffering from mental disorders like depression find it even harder to stay fit. When their mental health adversely affects their appetite and eating habits, this in turn sends signals back to the brain over time, causing even more stress and psychological pain. This can lead to both anorexia and overeating, both of which are highly unhealthy habits for your body.
That’s why for any approach to bettering your lifestyle needs to tackle both your mental state and your physical habits, engage in activities that help you relax and bring you joy, while simultaneously making an effort to eat right and exercise. Because only when your mind and your stomach are in sync are you in a better position to live a happy, fulfilled life.
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