Understanding the Gut-Brain Connection

We’ve all heard of gut feelings but did you know your gut can actually influence your mood? Often called the “second brain”, your digestive system may be the key to unlocking a happier, healthier you.

Just as the central nervous system (CNS) includes the nerves in your brain and spinal cord, the enteric nervous system (ENS) consists of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract. While the ENS is mainly responsible for digestion, it also communicates with your actual brain.

Experts have long since understood that psychological conditions like stress and anxiety can trigger concerns like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and bloating. For example, many of us have likely felt nauseous before an important meeting at work or an exciting first date. However, new research suggests it may also work the other way round. 

Studies from the John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology indicate that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system that trigger mood changes. These new findings could explain why a higher than typical percentage of people with physiological conditions like IBS and functional bowel problems also experience psychological conditions like depression and anxiety, and why mind-body treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in treating people on a holistic level. 

This all goes to say, if you’re feeling stomach or intestinal problems, it may be a good idea to consider your emotional well-being and vice versa. Wellness is about both your physical and mental health, and we hope this has helped you understand the importance of caring for both your brain and your “second brain”.

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