More than a gut feeling: exploring the gut-brain axis


More than a gut feeling: exploring the gut-brain axis

Can you recall a time you felt “butterflies” in your stomach? Or experienced stress about a situation which caused changes in your toilet habits?

It turns out there is more to these sensations than mere coincidence – it is thanks to the fascinating relationship between our gut and our brain, also known as the “gut-brain axis”.

What is the gut-brain axis?

Imagine your gut and your brain as two best friends chatting via a special phoneline. This phoneline is a complex network of nerves, hormones and biochemical signals that constantly exchange information between your gut and your brain.

For example, when you’re stressed or anxious, your brain sends signals down this phoneline (called the “vagus nerve”) to your gut which can then flare up digestive symptoms. Similarly, when your gut is unhappy it can signal this back up to your brain, and potentially impact mood and emotions. Our gut bugs play a crucial role in maintaining the communication between the gut and the brain.1-2

Top Tips

So, how can we support this dynamic duo? At Love Your Gut, we know the importance of diet and what we put on our plates. A diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables and wholegrains can help keep your gut happy and thriving. Think of it as a gourmet feast for your gut bugs!

But it’s not just about what you eat. Lifestyle factors such as stress, exercise and sleep also play a crucial role. Stress, for example, can throw off the delicate balance of the gut-brain axis. Therefore, finding healthy ways to cope such as journalling, meditation, yoga or simply spending time in nature can work wonders for both your mental and digestive health.3

Exercise is another powerful tool for supporting the gut-brain axis. Not only does it help reduce stress and improve mood, but it also promotes healthy digestion and diversity of our gut bugs (i.e. lots of different type of bacteria – which is really good news!).4 So, lace up those trainers and get moving – your gut and brain will thank you for it! Read this blog  here for exercise inspiration.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the importance of sleep. A lack of sleep can negatively affect your gut.5 Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to keep your gut-brain axis in tip-top condition. Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and avoid exercise and heavy meals before bedtime. Read more top tips for good sleep here.

Take-home message – exploring the gut-brain axis

The gut-brain axis is a fascinating and intricate relationship that can play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. By nourishing our bodies with a healthy diet, managing stress, staying active, and prioritising sleep we can help to support this relationship. So maybe there is scientific truth to the saying “trust your gut”!

References    

  1. Mayer et al. (2022). Ann Rev Med, 73: 439–453.
  2. Margolis et al. (2021). Gastroenterology160(5): 1486–1501.
  3. Zhang et al. (2021). Br Med Bull, 138(1): 41–57.
  4. Monda et al. (2017). Oxid Med Cell Longev, e3831972.
  5. Bermingham et al. (2023). Eur J Nutr, 62(8): 3135–47.

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