The Feeling in the Pit of Your Stomach
Updated: Sep 4, 2018
Disclaimer: The following information is a synopsis of information from The Mind-Gut Connection, Healthy Brain, Happy Life, and knowledge that I have gained in my education. I am not not a medical professional, nor am I promoting any books or diets. I am sharing my story, what has helped me, and the knowledge I've gained with my readers.
"The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in." - B.K.S. Iyengar
Though my passions are centered around health and the brain, I am aware that many people are not interested in reading extensive research articles about the molecules and microbes that make up the body. One of my goals while creating my blog was to make science and health on the microscopic level easy, understandable and applicable to everyday life. In this week's blog, I want to go more in depth about a topic that I have discussed in a previous post: the connection between your brain and your gut. Though I've been wanting to write more about this connection, I struggled to make the science interesting and motivating. So I decided the best way to do this was to run experiments on myself to show the effect of dairy and ultimately sugar on the body while highlighting the mind-gut connection.
DRUNK ON DAIRY
I began the ketogenic diet again because I wanted the direct health benefits. The diet helps your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. The diet allows consuming dairy because of the high fat content and I decided to add it back into my diet because I wanted to have it as an accessible option. Well long story short, I learned that I definitely have a dairy intolerance. Not only did it have a negative effect on my body, but it affected my brain as well. During the time I was eating dairy, I felt drunk and hungover - I was groggy, confused and blurred. I kept a daily log of foods I ate to decipher which types of food affect me in certain ways. Some of my notes do not make sense and those around me noticed a difference in my cognition. Luckily for me, keto can be done without dairy; but the point of these experiments were also to prove that sugar has the same mental and physical effect on me. So how does dairy and sugar in my gut affect my brain and cognition so much?
THE SECOND BRAIN
In order to fully grasp the mind-gut connection, we have to unpack what is often referred to as, "The second brain," which is our gut. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is a network of 50 million neurons that begins at the brain and travels down to the esophagus, around the intestines, and to the rectum. These nerve fibers provide a direct link from our brain to our digestive system which is always communicating. This is the reason why humans feel, "A feeling in the pit of our stomachs." The emotional brain is directly connected to our digestive system, so our emotions have an affect on our digestion and vice versa.
SENSING EMOTION IN THE GUT
Why do we feel emotion in our stomachs? 95% of the body's serotonin receptors are carried in the gut and and are influenced by what we eat. Serotonin plays a role in mood, sexual desire, appetite, and digestion. This was a surprise in the research world because scientists previously thought that serotonin receptors were primarily in the brain. With the majority of serotonin receptors positioned in the gut, it explains how our moods are affected by the food we eat. There is a direct link between our stomachs to our brain - so if our stomachs are unsatisfied and poisoned by foods, our brain will be as well.
The brain, gut, and stomach microbes all communicate with one another. The brain is tied to the gut like no other organ and the stomach mimics every emotion that occurs in the brain. The bacteria that live in our gut do not harm us, and are necessary for a healthy life. I won't lie, Microbiology grossed me out and completely changed the way that I looked at life. It took me months to come to terms with the fact that these bacteria have always been around me and are essential to protect me against dangerous pathogens. One of the scariest moments was realizing that it wasn't what is around me that was dangerous, but rather what I put into my body that was slowly killing me.
BACTERIA ON DETOX
These invisible bacteria and microbes sit on the stomach lining that are highly connected to immune cells. The strategic location of serotonin receptors allows the bacterial cells to hear the brain's thoughts when you are stressed, happy, and angry, even when you are not aware of the emotional state that you are in. So when I ate dairy and sugar, the bacteria and immune cells in my gut sensed its presence. This information was sent directly to the brain and had a direct impact on my mood and made me sick. When we remove unhealthy eating habits from our lifestyle and then reintroduce these foods back into our bodies, the gut recognizes them as toxins. This is an important point to discuss because there are many myths about cleansing and detoxifying the body. Tea and juice cleanses essentially wipe out all bacteria from the body. The colon and liver are natural detoxifiers and it is important to maintain the development of a normal gut microbial count.
MICROBES ON BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
One of the most discussed areas of the ENS is on brain development. Something that I learned in my Cognitive Neuroscience class really stuck with me: A child will learn 50% of their lifetime knowledge by the time they are 3, and 80% by the time they are 5. I try to discuss pure facts on my blog and allow readers to decide how they feel about the information, but this area is one that I have strong beliefs on. One clear belief of mine is to start teaching people at young ages about nutrition to provide a basis for health. One of my many reasons for this belief is based off of research that proved there is a negative impact on children's brain development if they grow up in too clean of an environment. This directly relates to what children are fed because children must build up antibodies to dangerous bacteria. It important to introduce a wide range of healthy whole foods and fats in order to create a firm mind-gut connection.
I also feel strongly about a durable connection because of research that has proven conditions such as autism, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) are directly linked to lifestyle and diet. All of these disorders and diseases have been on the rise dramatically over the last decade and are expected to double and even triple in the next decade. Research on a healthy gut gives hope that a balance of bacteria in the gut is the key to reducing the prevalence of these conditions and is essential in creating a healthier life for ourselves.
I CHALLENGE YOU
From my own research and my journey with health, I have personally learned that our knowledge on food and nutrition is the most important way to improve the mind-gut connection that is so powerful in our daily lives.
For this week's challenge: try to keep a log of what you are eating. Even if you are only able to do this for a day, it will help make you more aware of what is going on in your body. I encourage you to take a probiotic to create healthy levels of microbes in your gut and to be mindful of your mood and how you feel after eating. Our bodies have created a connection that aids us in understanding our health. I encourage you to believe in yourself and to always listen to the feeling in your stomach.
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU!
Let me know what you think of this week's post, ask me any questions, and SUBSCRIBE BELOW!