Your Gut And Brain Are Connected (Duh!)

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Have irritable bowel syndrome or other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress?

 

Researchers are now figuring out what we’ve all known all along…

…that not only is our brain health connected to our gut health, but our gut health is connected to our brain health!

 

You already know this… that your digestion and your thoughts and feelings are directly linked.

You know that sudden feeling when you are scared and you become instantly nauseous?

As a mom I got that feeling all the time when my kids were younger and I lost sight of them for a moment in a public place.

It’s a horrendous feeling… it doesn’t matter how hungry you were or how long since your last meal… in life-or-death situations, hunger immediately evaporates and the rest of your senses are heightened (heart pounding and ears and eyes on maximum alert) and you scan the crowd looking for your precious child.

 

Or… have you ever had nervous diarrhea before a big test, a blind date, a job interview?

 

Or… what about a dry mouth as you stand up to give an important speech to your peers, act in a play, sing your solo at a choir concert?

Your dry mouth isn’t a true reflection of your hydration status… matter of fact you just drank two cups of water before stepping out on that stage… it’s your body’s immediate response to emotional stimulus.

 

burger

 

While we all *know* on some level that our digestive state and our bowels are connected to our mind and mind frame, you may not know that your gut actually plays a role in your mental health.

What if it’s not just that our mind signals our gut to develop physical symptoms, but the other way around too?

Is it possible that disease in our gut can cause a signal to our brain to develop physical symptoms, such as anxiety and depression?

 

Today’s study, straight from the medical literature (published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics on July 22, 2016) helps to figure some of this connection out.

 

The Study:

  • Researchers looked at over 1,900 individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  • Using a validated survey evaluating for Rome III IBS and functional dyspepsia (FD) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, researchers set out to test if there is a specific gut-to-brain connection and what the signalling order is.  In other words, can gut health affect brain health?

 

The Results:

  • Researchers found that 16.5%  of the participants had IBS, 14.2% had FD, 11.8% had postprandial distress (distress after eating) and 6.1% had epigastric pain syndrome.
  • Following the participants for one full year, 6.4% developed new onset IBS and 7.2% developed FD.
  • Participants with higher levels of emotional distress (anxiety and depression) were significantly more likely to develop IBS and FD, and those with IBS and FD at the start of the study were more likely to report new onset of anxiety and depression in the year following enrollment in the study.
  • 1/3 of participants had the mood disorder first, and then the gastrointestinal disorder.
  • 2/3 of the participants had the gatrointenstinal disorder (IBS or FD) first, and then the mood disorder.

 

Researchers now believe there are two different types of functional gastrointesntinal disease pathways — not just one.  One subset of patients experience gut symptoms (pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, etc..) first prior to anxiety or depression developing.

This suggests that gut disease may signal the onset of a gut-to-brain disease pathway.

Another subset of patients may have anxiety or depression signal to the gut and subsequently give rise to gastrointestinal distress… brain-to-gut signaling.The bottom line:The more common pathway appears to be gut-to-brain signaling, being twice as common as brain-to-gut signaling!

 

Gut disease occurred first, followed by the development of psychological symptoms in the majority of the participants during the study.

 

This is a really important finding… because as I firmly believe, it’s not just that our body has random symptoms but that our body and our mind are intimately connected, each supporting the other and each signalling to the other in an effort to constantly balance and re-balance by expressing symptoms and emotions.

 

This is why probiotics can make such a head-to-toe impact on your body.

 

Glass of milk with sliced fruit on plate sitting next to a wooden spoon on place mat and fruit salad in the background, close-up, tilt, selective focus

As I blogged about over two years ago, probiotics might be more aptly named psychobiotics for their mind and mood enhancing effects.

 

The latest statistics estimate that about one in every ten Americans now takes an antidepressant, and antidepressants are the third most prescribed form of medication.

Whether because of personal preference, unwanted side effects, cost or other reasons, there are many folks looking for alternative, holistic solutions to treating depression and anxiety.

 

Natural supplements like St. John’s Wort, Maca Root, Valerian, 5-HTP, GABA, and holistic therapeutic modalities such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, earthing, reiki are all being used to support and treat depression, but now there is a new player on the field, and this one is a game changer:

 

Enter probiotics.

 

Preclinical studies suggest that the gut microbes in depressed individuals are decreased in both amount and in variety.

If the natural flora of the gut is diminished in depression, then restoring the natural vitality and variety of healthy organisms in the digestive tract might be a very powerful way to improve outcome in depression (and other mood disorders, such as anxiety.)

Improved mood was shown in several different clinical studies: one study showed decreased depression when participants received probiotic supplements for 30 days, and another study reported clinically significant improvement in mood when participants ate probiotic-containing yogurt for 3 weeks.

Yet another study showed that participants with chronic fatigue syndrome who consumed probiotics three times a day reported significantly less anxiety compared to those who did not.

Probiotics lift your mood, help digestion, alleviate constipation, boost your immune system, control yeast and fungal overgrowth, promote healthy skin, and even lower blood pressure!

A recent meta-analysis looked at over 9 different clinical trials spanning over 500+ patients, and found that consuming probiotics lead to a decrease in systolic blood pressure by an average of 3.5 mmHg… and the results were even more beneficial for folks who consumed more than one type of probiotic.

People who consumed more than one species of probiotics had an average drop of 5.8 mmHg systolic pressure. 

 

Hands using blood pressure cuff

Previous studies have shown that changes as small as a 3.3 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure is enough to create a 22% decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality, heart attack and stroke

 

So these results have huge implications on a massive scale, decreasing health care costs and burden and imparting important widespread public health benefits.

All from simply consuming probiotic foods… something you can do right now to support the health of your body from the inside out, head to toe.

 

Everything… everything… from your outer skin to your inner intestines, from your mental state to your heart attack risk, can be positively impacted by consuming probiotics.

Today’s medical study is even more proof why not only do your emotions impact how your gut feels… but your gut health can impact how your mind feels.

 

probioticsWant to try the probiotic supplement I recommend most to my patients?

Right here.

 

And here are 3 other holistic therapies that start in the gut and help the mind:

 

1.  Omega 3 Fatty Acids — shown to improve symptoms in ADHD and decrease postpartum blues, omega fatty acids are a must have to soothe and support your entire body inside and out, from skin to brain.

2.  Coconut oil — shown to help feed the brain by directly providing and energy source, coconut oil has been found to reduce Alzheimer symptoms.  Thanks to the Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) coconut oil supports healthy brain function and decreases anxiety and depression… try making these easy and delicious supplements yourself, in five minutes flat!

3.  Vit D — The link between low levels of Vit D and depression has long been established, but newer research suggests that Vitamin D supplements, taken for 12 weeks, can reverse depressed mood.  Most of us are Vit D deficient, particularly during the dark winter season, so this is a great time to give Vit D supplements a try!

 

Want more holistic healing support that improves your mindframe as well as your health?

 

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To your resilient and ever evolving, ever improving health!

xoxox, Laura