Just the very thought of eating can cause your stomach to activate juices in preparation for food. Or the very thought of giving a presentation can stir serious butterflies up in the stomach. For decades it was thought that only the brain could send communication to the gut, however, extensive research now shows that it is actually a two way street. When something doesn't feel right or you go with your gut this is your stomach's way of communicating with your brain, it is the source of your intuition. This is revolutionizing medicine's understanding of the affect your gut's health has on your mental state. Jay Pasricha M.D, who's research in this field has gained worldwide attention, says that the link between these two is “profound”.
What Does a Healthy Gut Look Like?
Your gut houses trillions of bacteria, some are good some are bad, they do everything from processing food to fighting off disease. Ideally, at your healthiest, you want 80-85% of bacteria to be good guys and the rest to be bad guys. In this state, all is well, you have bucket loads of energy, you're happy and bright, getting sick is a foreign concept, your body is strong, your skin is clear etcetera etcetera. However, if the bad guys take over and begin to rule your gut, this potentially opens the door for a whole slew of problems - including mental health issues.
Why a Healthy Gut is so Important for your Mind.
Hidden in the walls of the digestive system are 100 million nerve cells, this complex network is called your enteric nervous system (ENS) and is referred to as “the brain in your gut”. Some health guru's affectionately say that your brain is actually your second gut because the stomach is quite literally the epicenter of your mental and physical health. Your ENS is sending 24/7 intel from your gut to your brain. Positive messages encourage your brain to create positive emotions. Consequently, if your stomach is spending all of its energy fighting a war on bad bacteria and processed foods, your brain will get the message that things are in turmoil, yielding lethargic and “blue” emotions.
Most of us know about serotonin, a chemical your body produces. At high levels it will boost happiness, regulate mood, anxiety and stress. Understandably then, low levels are associated with depression and anxiety. The vast majority (90%) of serotonin is actually made in your gut, and guess what? Good gut health= lots of serotonin/happy brain!
Another key role your belly plays is that up to 70% of your immune system lives there. Being sick and having low vitality can greatly impact your mental state as temporary or mild depression is a common symptom of being under the weather. A gut that is in tip top shape fights off threats with ease and better spends it's time maintaining your mental and physical wellness.
Our wonderful bodies are our vehicle for experiencing life and how we take care of them is greatly important to how we enjoy it. To roll with this metaphor: your gut is your engine so put some premium petrol in there and treat yourself like a Ferrari (because you are one!).