If someone in the health and wellness industry or health-related field tells you to ‘Mind Your Gut‘, they mean it…and then some.
As a Certified Functional Nutrition Counsellor, I cannot stress enough how much I believe (especially ‘recent’) research has confirmed our gut-brain connection, showing great potential for improving gut issues (at the very least) with help from the brain, and brain or mood issues with help from the gut. If you have been looking for ways to improve your mental health or mood, or to reduce gut symptoms, there is hope.
Gut or digestive issues are common and can be difficult to diagnose, as they often lack an apparent physical cause. However, research indicates that our brains control some of our digestive processes, while our gut is equally sensitive to emotions, such as feeling anxious or nauseous. In many cases, stress may be an overlooked reason for gut issues, but it can trigger and worsen gastrointestinal pain and other symptoms, and vice versa, while not as often thought of at time of diagnosis.
Stress reduction techniques (mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, yoga – something my most extraordinary friend Candace at Shifting Light Studio can help with, meditation, etc.) can lead to significant improvements in gut symptoms compared to conventional medical treatment alone. I truly believe it is essential to look at stress and emotions if you have gut issues so, before diving into how to reduce stress and emotions, let’s explore the biology behind the gut-brain axis.
Your nervous systems are composed of two main parts: the somatic nervous system, which we can consciously control, and the autonomic nervous system, which controls our body’s vital functions. The autonomic system regulates our body’s functions by either speeding them up or slowing them down, with the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts playing opposite roles. As you’ve undoubtedly heard me say many times in the past; the sympathetic part (‘fight or flight‘) kicks in when we sense danger (real or not) and get stressed, and we feel our heart beats faster and breathe heavier. In contrast, the parasympathetic part slows things down, and our digestive systems do their jobs much better, secreting more digestive juices to break down food, absorbing more nutrients, and lowering inflammation in our gut (which is why the parasympathetic is often referred to as ‘rest and digest‘).
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts interact with the gut, meaning that when we are stressed, we can experience gut symptoms, and when we are relaxed, our digestion functions correctly.
The gut also has its nervous system called the enteric nervous system, which spans our entire digestive tract and communicates with the main nervous system using neurotransmitters. The enteric nervous system can function independently of the main nervous system, controlling our digestive processes. It is also closely linked to our immune system, providing another path for the gut to communicate with the brain. Friendly gut microbes, gut microbiota, play a role in communicating with the brain, as they make neurotransmitters that influence our moods.
What I need you to be equally aware of is the impact of your diet on your health is significant, particularly in regard to your microbiome. Consuming a high(er)-fibre, plant-based diet can improve gut health by providing the preferred foods for friendly gut microbes to flourish. Additionally, incorporating pre and probiotic foods containing health-promoting bacteria is beneficial. Decreasing intake of sugar and red meat can also lead to a healthier microbiome by promoting a diverse community of microbes, which can reduce digestive inflammation and decrease the risk of depression and heart disease.
A quick few examples would be:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
All of these complex systems constitute the gut-brain axis, highlighting the close relationship between the gut and the brain. By understanding the gut-brain axis, you can leverage this new research to improve your gut and brain. If you’re interested in learning more about the gut-brain axis, the links and studies provided below can be an excellent resource.
You can certainly start by downloading my short (seriously – it’s only 20 pages in length) eBook here.
My Genomic Mastery Process may also be the ‘next level’ for you if wanting a more advanced, science or genomic-backed 16 week process of healing your gut and associated chronic diagnosis.
Cleveland Clinic. (2016, October 6). Gut-Brain Connection. Retrieved from
Harvard Health. (n.d.). The gut-brain connection. Retrieved from
Harvard Health. (2019, August 21). Stress and the sensitive gut. Retrieved from
Harvard Health. (2019, April 11). Brain-gut connection explains why integrative treatments can help relieve digestive ailments. Retrieved from
University of Calgary. (2018, December 1). Can a meal be medicine? How what we eat affects our gut health, which affects our wellness. Retrieved from