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September 16, 2019

The Strange Relationship Between The Gut & Mind

A short study on how what you eat can affect how you feel.


The connection between your gut and your brain is extremely significant. While it may seem unlikely, the relationship that they both share contributes greatly to your overall mental health. Recent studies have proven this correlation and it makes sense.

This connection is more obvious than you may think. All you have to do is imagine back to a point in time when a certain emotion has triggered your body to feel a certain way; the feeling of butterflies when you are anxious about something or even feeling nauseous when you are nervous.

This may be one of the most significant developments in gut health research. Proving that the first step for healthy living is gut health. According to a study from Harvard Medical School Journal;

“Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That doesn’t mean, however, that functional gastrointestinal conditions are imagined or “all in your head.” Sourced. 

Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.”


How does the connection between the gut and the brain work?


Your gut is responsible for breaking down all the food you put into your body and turning that into energy. That energy is transported to the brain via the vagus nerve- aptly named, for being a sort of ‘vagabond’, wandering around your body sending sensory fibres from the brainstem to the internal organs (the nerve which runs directly from your gut to your brain stem).

This nerve converts energy into feelings and emotional conscious experiences.

It starts in the small intestine which breaks down food particles and allows them to be absorbed into the body. The small intestine is covered with a variety of different types of cells that all play a different role in distributing said energy throughout the body.

One of these cells is called the enteroendocrine cell, which is unlike any of the other cells in the gut. It’s our guts sensor and it is directly linked to the vagus nerve which as said earlier runs directly to your brain.

The enteroendocrine cell senses and react to mechanical, thermal and chemical stimuli such as nutrients or bacteria. This stimulation (food) is converted into electrical pulses and currents. These pulses carry sensory information from the gut to the brain.

These currents stimulate your brain which explains the emotional reaction one can have to food.


What does this connection mean for your health & well-being?


Having a direct pathway from the gut to the mind means that there is a way for the potentially dangerous pathogens to use this pathway as a highway to the mind leading to mental instability.

This discovery will have a massive effect on the way that mental health is dealt with in the future. Knowing this connection exists will force more doctors to consider the importance of gut health in regards to your mental health. Which gives doctors and patients another way to combat certain issues.

Therapy is now able to be more effectively and personally designed to treat those who are struggling with their mental health. Some research has even suggested that if these pathways are damaged it could lead to serious mental health issues and maybe even disorders
The gut-brain connection, anxiety and indigestion
Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your stomach or intestinal problems, abdominal cramps may be brought on by stress or anxiety?

Listed below are the most common stress-related or induced symptoms for physical, behavioural and emotional outcomes as a result of gastrointestinal, abdominal or psychiatric issues.

Physical symptoms


  • Stiff or tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Recent loss of interest in sex
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Restlessness

Behavioural symptoms


  • Procrastination
  • Grinding teeth
  • Difficulty completing work assignments
  • Changes in the amount of alcohol or food you consume
  • Taking up smoking, or smoking more than usual
  • Increased desire to be with or withdraw from others
  • Rumination (frequent talking or brooding about stressful situations)

Emotional symptoms


  • Crying
  • An overwhelming sense of tension or pressure
  • Trouble relaxing
  • Nervousness
  • Quick temper
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Indecisiveness

Watch for these other common symptoms of stress and discuss them with your doctor. Together you can come up with strategies to help you deal with the stressors in your life, and also ease your digestive discomforts.

Probiotic foods

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Dark chocolate
  • Kimchi
  • Natto
  • Tempeh
  • Raw cheese
  • Pickles
  • Olives

Prebiotic food

  • Chicory
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Spring onions
  • Leeks
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Soya beans
  • Baked beans
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit

Where to from here?

Keep your gut healthy by eating a well-balanced diet with probiotic or prebiotic ingredients. By doing so you will be able to maintain a positive balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut that supports microbial health. Both prebiotic foods and probiotic foods will allow your gut to maintain this positive balance (refer to the bottom for a food list)

The connection between your gut and your brain is the latest connection to be found between the gut and other organs. It is now proven that gut health affects multiple parts of your body and as new research is made available the importance of gut health will become more paramount.


For any enquiries about our services,  get in contact with the On The Go Rehabilitation team today!