At some point or another, everyone has felt “butterflies” in their stomach when nervous. That’s just one example of how your gut-brain works. Hidden deep within your digestive tract are loads of nerve cells which communicate with your brain, and can trigger emotional shifts in people who have poor gut health.
If you eat in a way that irritates your GI tract, such as by consuming plenty of processed and sugary foods, for example, you will clearly be in for a rough ride. Such food leads to spikes in blood sugar and the production of excitotoxins, a reaction which causes your gut’s nerve cells to signal your brain to enter fight or flight mode, resulting in anxiety and stress.
Conversely, you may feel a great deal of anxiety from being stuck in traffic or working in a place you hate. In such cases, your brain and body release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which communicate with the nerves in your gut-brain, potentially causing stomach upsets, bloating, or diarrhea.
If you want to restore the balance between your body, gut, and mind, then there are a number of things you can try:
Use Food as Medicine: The best way to do this is to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as red meats, dairy, gluten, refined sugars and carbohydrates, alcohol, coffee, and other processed foods. In their place, we'd recommend eating plenty of whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, vegetables, legumes, and some fruit. You should also focus on drinking plenty of water and tea.
Practice Mindfulness: Reducing stress and increasing mindfulness will reduce the overproduction of stress hormones in your body. This will result in quieting those signals that alert your gut. There are various ways to incorporate mindfulness into your routine, and most of them include periodically slowing down and paying attention to the little things in life.
Take Probiotics: Probiotics can be very helpful when it comes to regulating digestion and improving the gut microbiome. Take a high-quality probiotic each morning, and try to choose a supplement with at least 50 billion CFU (colony-forming units) for best results.
Take Digestive Enzymes: These work by breaking down what you eat into smaller components, thereby making it easier to digest your food and absorb its nutrients. Try taking one or two with your heaviest meal of the day. Choose a digestive enzyme that contains amylase (to break down starch), lipase (to break down fat), and protease (to break down protein).
Take Glutamine: A poor diet and stress can cause leaky gut, which is when the junctions between cells of the intestinal lining loosen, allowing harmful substances and toxins to enter the rest of the circulation, affecting your entire body. This amino acid works by strengthening your gut lining and help to seal it. You should ideally take one to two grams a day.
Take a Tech Break: As necessary as they might seem, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and television are all highly stress-inducing gadgets when used too often. When you wake up in the morning, do not touch ay electronic devices immediately, to avoid getting off to a bad start, thereby affecting your GI health adversely.