The gut-brain axis is a complex and fascinating area of health with more research coming to light every year. Have you ever felt 'butterflies' in your stomach when you are nervous? Our gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion; anger, anxiety, sadness and elation can trigger physical symptoms in the gut. This is why our guts are also referred to as 'the second brain'; due to the communication between our gut and brain via the Vagus Nerve.
Supporting both your gut & brain is so important for overall health including our immune system and mental health. To help you explore this topic in more detail, we've shared our top gut-brain facts and 4 ways to improve brain fog below.
Did you know?
1. The gut and the brain are directly connected by one important nerve (or communication highway) – The Vagus Nerve.
This impressive nerve keeps the gut and brain in constant communication and both can affect each other with the content of that communication. A good example of this is when feeling nervous creates ‘butterflies’ in the stomach.
2. 95% of our serotonin (the feel good hormone) is both stored and manufactured in our gut; ‘Happy Mind = Happy Gut!’
Serotonin plays an important role within the gut-brain connection; it influences our mood, sleep, happiness and feelings of well-being.
3. The gut has its own nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system, and it is often referred to as our ‘second brain’.
There are more than 100 million nerve cells in the gut, as many as are contained in the spinal cord. The gut’s power to think for itself is no surprise as there are millions of neurons in its lengthy coils – 9 meters of intestines!
4. Poor gut health and brain health could be caused by the Western diet.
What we mean by the Western diet is a diet that relies heavily on processed food that is typically rich in sugar, salt and fat but generally low in fresh fruit and vegetables, fibre and omega 3’s. This way of consuming food negatively affects gut function and microbial diversity, and has been implicated in neurodegenerative disease and mental health disorders.
4 ways to improve brain fog
Eat the rainbow
It’s a great time of the year to pack your meals with lots of different vegetables and hearty stews, soups or curries, and rather than worry about eating less (we don’t need another thing to worry about!), eat MORE of the good gut stuff! More veggies, which are high in prebiotic fibre, could really help to support your gut flora this time of year.
Accept a helping hand and find a good quality probiotic
The stresses of life and our Western diets can mean we don’t have an optimal amount of beneficial bacteria in our guts. This is where a good quality probiotic can really make all the difference. It’s important to find one that is appropriate to your age and to ensure it’s the right supplement for you.
Sleep plays an important part in both brain health and gut health. Try to ensure that you schedule enough sleep each week, even if it means counteracting the late-night Christmas parties to help ensure there is a balance of down time. Adequate rest and a good 7-8 hours of sleep each night will really help to create a resilient brain.
Take a daily walk
Regular physical activity has been shown to benefit the brain, but at the busiest time of the year how about fitting in a daily lunch time walk for 30 minutes whilst listening to something enjoyable or calming.