Is your gut smarter than your brain?
Featured in the October 2018 edition of Holistic Bliss Magazine
Authors: Kate Mason and Suzi Le Fanue
Gut decision may seem reckless and impulsive but did you know you have more neurons in your gut than in your brain?
The gut brain connection is the communication between your digestive tract and the central nervous system. This is known as the gut-brain axis which enables your gastrointestinal tract to send and receive signals to and from your brain. The foods we eat and absorb translates to how we feel, think and act.
Our digestive system contains a large community of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi known as the gut microbiome. This microbiome is the key mediator between the gut and the brain. These organisms feed on nutrients from foods we consume and produce compounds in the body that can affect the way we feel and function.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals and they are made from protein and nutrients we absorb from our diet. If your diet is lacking sufficient protein and nutrient dense foods you may find yourself feeling more anxious, depressed, tired and unable to sleep deeply.
Approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin (our happy neurotransmitter) is produced by our gut microbiome. So when digestive bacterial balance is disrupted, a condition termed dysbiosis, you may be more prone to conditions associated with imbalanced happy chemicals such as anxiety, low mood, low energy and depression.
Another factor that can affect the brain-gut connection is SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It is an extremely common digestive imbalance, however, is rarely investigated or diagnosed.
The digestive tract contains over one kilogram of microscopic bacteria, usually made up of good bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria and other bacteria that don’t provide benefit and/or cause harm, bad bacteria.
SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth of BAD bacteria in the small intestine. This overgrowth means that before the villi can release enzymes to break down food, the bacteria will feed off the food you are consuming and cause it to ferment.
Do you have gas and bloating after meals? Cramping, diarrhoea or constipation? This could be SIBO.
SIBO causes the release of gases, such as hydrogen and methane, which cause the IBS like symptoms of SIBO. These gases also cause damage to the fragile villi on the gut lining meaning that nutrient absorption is compromised, which after a period of time may exacerbate hormonal balance, neurological issues, fatigue and sleep problems.
Many cases of IBS are actually cases of SIBO or both, they produce similar symptoms.
A breath test is a simple, non-invasive, and extremely accurate test that detects bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
We mustn’t forget the importance of addressing your mental wellbeing when working correcting gut imbalance. An imbalance in stress hormones such as cortisol is known to affect gut function and nutrient absorption.
Essentially, it’s important to address both the gut and the brain when looking to correct an imbalance of either mental or digestive health as they both affect each other.
Kate Mason & Suzi Le Fanue Naturopaths at Integrated Wellness Clinic