The Gut and Brain Alliance: How Your Mind Affects Your Belly

The gut and brain alliance means the two are inextricably linked— Through physical and chemical connections, your digestive system has a role in your mental health and your brain function plays a part in your gut. That’s why “gut feelings” are common, as are nervous stomach aches and, well, feelings of hunger.

What's The Gut and Brain Axis?

The gut and brain axis is all about how your emotions, behavior, and diet affect your gut health and how your gut health and diet affects your mind. What you are feeling and experiencing affects your gut health and in turn how you feel physically overall— And vice versa, depending on what you eat. Issues like anxiety and stress often cause problems in the gut and overall digestive system: Stomach aches and nausea are common in this scenario. Have you ever felt like you were “so nervous you could throw up?” If these issues come up a lot, it might be worth it to check in on your mental health, stresses, and sources of anxiety to see if there’s a link.

Mind-Body Connection

Watching the mind-body connection in action is quite fascinating. Consider this example: If someone has a nervous belly or stomach problems in general, letting anxieties fester is sowing the seeds for more gut problems— As soon as the anxiety comes around, so do the belly aches! And when these gut problems come up all too often, they cause more anxiety. That’s because of that intricate mind-body connection.

The brain and belly are inseparably linked, and some bodies might be more prone to physical symptoms of stress in the gut. It's remarkable to watch these stomach problems recede just as soon as the anxiety dissipates: It's like it's my belly’s way of telling my brain to take it easy.

When thinking about the gut + brain alliance, we must remember that mental health plays a big role in overall health - both emotionally and physically. We wonder why we are sick all the time and disease continues to rise, but we don't stop to look at our lifestyles. We've been conditioned to believe that the stressful 9-5 lifestyle is the way that we are supposed to live. We are consumed by work, have a lack of time off and quality time with family and friends, have bad bosses who think we owe everything to them, etc. The chronic state of stress that lives in us due to this conventional lifestyle affects the whole body, which can produce an array of immune-suppressed symptoms: gut issues, migraines, fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, weight-gain, irritability, etc. The list goes on. It's pretty simple, mental health matters - so take care of it. 

Your Gut Microbiome

Physical anxiety might fester in your belly because of your gut microbiome. This biome is made of a bunch of different gut bacteria, and it's a bit complicated— But essentially, the bacteria in your gut impact your brain and your brain impacts these bacteria. These two send signals back and forth, working in system with your diet and lifestyle, and influencing your overall mental and physical health.

That’s why anxiety that you feel in your mind can also seep to your stomach, causing a “gut feeling” and, for many people when real nervous, gastrointestinal distress. Same goes for people who get "hangry!"

And this is definitely a reason to encourage mindful, creative eating when possible. This mindful eating alongside taking care of yourself through your emotions work together and feed off of each other: Eating well for a diverse gut microbiome can help ease anxiety, while taking care of your emotions and anxiety can help reduce stomach problems.