Functional Nutrition Blog

Focusing on gut health and Functional nutrition

The Gut-Brain Connection: How It’s Influencing Your Health

Aug 22, 2022 | Gut Health, Nutrition

I don’t think the idea of the gut and brain being linked is so new any more.  Maybe it is to you!  In that case, you’re in the perfect spot.  If it’s not new to you, you might be feeling like it’s “a thing you know”, but you couldn’t really say more than the fact that they’re connected.

So let’s establish this fact right off the bat:  The gut and the brain are in fact connected.  The brain will let the gut know when it perceives stress and the gut will send the brain messages based on its health state as well.


Vagus Nerve

The brain and the gut are connected (literally, a physical connection) by the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve is one of your 12 cranial nerves (so it originates in the brain) and it connects and innervates every single part of the the GI system!

So, let’s pretend you’re on a road trip and you’re lost.  Then, all of a sudden, your GPS finds service again and that little blue line on your phone map shows up again and points you in the right direction.  It connects you from where you are to where you want to go right?

The vagus nerve does the same thing.  Now, we all know a road trip can unfold many ways.  Do you have enough snacks, how often do you have to stop for gas, are you in a comfy car, do you have screaming kids, are you with friends, good podcast to listen to (I recommend the Curious Women Podcast PERSONALLY)

Likewise, your vagus nerve can be communicating any variety of messages between the gut and brain.  AND – the communication goes BOTH WAYS.  Not just from the brain to the gut.  Not just from the gut to the brain.  But between them both at all times.

So how can you make this road trip metaphor work for you?  How can we get you a jammin playlist, wind in your hair, and never need to stop to pee?

You have two on ramps:

  • The Gut
  • The Brain

When you make a change to one, you change the message being sent to the other and open an opportunity for change there as well.  When you get them both optimized, you change your health and your experience in this life.

Let’s explore.

Things You Can Do To Impact The Brain:

The brain will tell the gut what it perceives.  You might not “feel stressed” but if your body and brain PERCEIVE stress – it’s going to send the same message.

Here’s why this is so important:

When the brain perceives stress, it send a signal down the vagus nerve to tell the body to divert energy AWAY FROM the digestive system.  This is called “fight or flight mode”.  You’ve likely heard of that.

The opposite of “fight or flight” is “rest and digest”. As the name implies, this is the state we want to be in when we consume our meals for optimal digestion and comfort.

Here are some ways that you can help shift the brain into rest and digest mode.  You might decide to start by just doing this before meals to help your digestion OR you might make them more of a habit in your daily routine.

  1. Breathing before meals
  2. Physiological Sigh
  3. Breathwork – I recommend checking out Theta Breathwork from my friend and colleague Bea, here is website and here is a free 29 minute theta breathwork session of hers to get a taste!
  4. Increase Vagal tone:  cold exposure, singing/humming/gargling/chanting, meditation
  5. Therapy, EMDR


Things You Can Do to Impact The Gut:

  1. Resistant Starch in your diet (these feed the bacteria that produce short chain fatty acids that impact the brain).  Check out the blog I wrote on that HERE!
  2. Fiber:  at least 30 g / day
  3. Probiotics (maybe)
  4. Variety of colorful foods
  5. Adequate protein
  6. Healing any infections, leaky gut, etc…
  7. Working on toxins, food sensitivities, nutrient imbalances

These are some BROAD and overarching ideas.  You might need more guidance to really dig deep – especially if you’re dealing with an unknown infection or GI imbalance.

BUT – take a stab at some of these other things and see how far you can take things for yourself.

When you need more guidance and support – you can check out some options for handholding and testing here!

What’s the take home message here?

Your gut and brain are connected so you’re able to change both by picking just one thing to change.

Cheers to changing your mind, your gut, and your LIFE!

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