The Gut-Brain Axis

The Gut-Brain Axis

Did you know that your gut and brain are continually talking to each other? This is why in times of stress and anxiety you may experience butterflies in your stomach and find you’re going to the toilet more. Your gut can affect your brain and vice versa.

In the intestines, there are trillions of microbes. These microbes play a role in normal brain development and function and can regulate several complex behaviours including anxiety, learning and memory and appetite and satiety.

10% of the nerves that connect the brain and the gut deliver information from the brain to the gut. In stressful situations, our brain will send signals that are sensed by the gut and we enter fight or flight mode. As a result, less blood is being sent to our gut and is being sent to other parts of our body, like our muscles. Our gut will reduce the amount of energy it is using and you may experience nervous vomiting or nervous diarrhoea to get rid of food that it doesn’t want to digest.

90% of the nerve fibres that connect your gut and brain deliver information from your gut to the brain. Our gut delivers information and advice to the brain to let it know how your whole body is doing including the quality of our nutrients, how our immune cells are doing or what hormones in our blood. This information reaches areas of the brain that can control mortality, fear or emotional processing.

So, what does this mean for you?

The research between our gut and brain is still very new. However, it is important to look after your gut to look after your brain and vice versa through lifestyle and diet. 

Whilst we will always feel stressed at some point in our lives, trying to control and manage this stress is important. Recording how you are feeling during the day can help identify when periods of stress might be triggering our gut. Instead of fearing foods, you can make small changes to your lifestyle that can help reduce stress and therefore, improve your gut. 

It is important to find your own way of reducing stress.

These are top tips to reduce stress - 

  • Aim for 20 minutes of exercise per day
  • Try yoga or meditating 
  • Talk to family or friends
  • Get outside each day
  • Write down how you’re feeling
  • Read a book  
  • Take a bath
  • Try apps like Calm or Headspace 

For more information about reducing stress visit the NHS website, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/