Do you have a sensitive GUT?! Do you feel bloating, stomach pain, and discomfort? The hyper sensitivity is likely associated with the gut-brain connection.
In this article, I will share with you:
- What is the gut-brain connection:
IBS is a functional gut disorder, there’s nothing structurally wrong with your gut. Which is also why, IBS is labeled as a disorder of the gut-brain interaction, and what it means is that there is a communication problem between the brain and the gut, causing problems such as, gut motility, heightened sensitivity, alternating bowel habits, general discomfort, etc.
In the past we have always thought that the gut-brain connection was a one-way street, our brain commands our gut. Newer research suggests it is actually a 2 way communication, from brain to gut, and from gut to brain.
- What affects the gut-brain connection:
While we don’t have any clear evidence that one thing causes the gut-brain disconnect, we know a few major factors that affects people with IBS:
stress/anxiety (think catching an airplane or taking a stressful exam!)
Sleep (lack of sleep!)
prior antibiotics use (can lead to dysbiosis)
inappropriate probiotics use (can lead to dysbiosis)
- diet low in plant-based fiber
Dysbiosis is repeated a few times here, but what is microbiome dysbiosis? Our gut is home to trillions of gut microbes. These microbes break down dietary fiber, produce anti-inflammatory substances such as short-chain fatty acids, and produce neurochemicals such as serotonin, the happy hormone! Our gut actually produces 95% of the serotonin in our body. It’s safe to say, the wellbeing of our gut-microbiome is directly connected to the wellbeing of our brain.
I will discuss further on how to improve our microbiome and gut-brain connection via dietary strategies later.
- Lifestyle strategies to enhance gut-brain connection
There are multiple things we can do to enhance our gut-brain connection, first and foremost is to get enough sleep. Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep affects all functions in our body, and the lack of sleep actually decreases our gut microbiome diversity affecting our gut function and gut-brain connection.
Manage your stress! I can’t “stress” enough how stress plays a huge part in our gut-brain connection (PUN intended 😉). Stress can trigger pain, bloating, and hyper sensitivity in our gut and make our discomfort worse. Stress management should always be a part of your IBS treatment.
Now let’s talk about some strategies to calm your gut-brain connection by activating the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in our body and it regulates internal organ functions. It connects our heart, lung, and the digestive tract to our brain.
By stimulating the vagus nerve, we are activating the parasympathetic nervous system to calm our body down. This action also decrease sensitivity and cramping sensation in our gut.
Here are a few easy actions you can do to calm your gut-brain axis!
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing (think Yogi’s breath!)
- Doing gentle exercise such as yoga, stretching, or walking, etc
- Respiratory vagal activation: singing, humming, or gargling water (try to do these 3 times a day, a minute each time)
Massage (treat yourself once in awhile ✨)
- Dietary strategies to enhance gut-brain connection
Earlier in the article, I talked about why the wellbeing of our gut-microbiome is so important to the gut-brain connection. Now, let’s talk about how to keep our gut microbiome healthy through diet.
Fiber and fiber variety is KEY to a healthy gut microbiome and gut microbe diversity! When we think of fiber, we are talking about fiber from plant-based sources, fruits, vegetables and whole-grains! Different types of fiber we get from food feed different groups of microbes, therefore, the more variety of plant-based foods we have, the more variety of fiber are available to feed a more diverse group of gut microbes! This is also why eating the rainbow and getting your fiber from plant-based foods is so important!
A good rule of thumb is 30g of fiber per day, and 30 different types of plant-based food per week! 🌈