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Discover the gut-mind connection

Nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik, our Nutrition Editor, starts a series in which we explore the link between our gut and brain – and how that relationship affects everything from mood to decision-making

by Psychologies

gut-mind

3 minute read

It is likely that you’ve experienced a nervous fluttery feeling, commonly known as ‘butterflies in the stomach’. That gut-brain sensation is more than an abstract concept and has a real physical link. I’m passionate about the gut-brain relationship, which I believe to be eye-opening and fascinating. That’s why I’m excited about my new column, ‘Happy gut’!

We’ll delve deeper into the powerful connection between gut and brain. How our mighty microbiome – trillions of microbes in the gut – have an influence on mood, emotions, stress, appetite and even decision-making! We’ll touch on factors that support this gut microbiome-brain dialogue, as well as those that leave our microbiome compromised and brain bamboozled. I’ll also focus on nutrients that nurture this relationship and highlight some of the lifestyle factors that play a vital role.

Mini-Me

Let’s understand a bit more about the ‘little’ brain. Just like the brain contains billions of nerve cells, our gut has 500 million nerve cells and a similar way of communicating. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is how our gut ‘thinks’ and consists of a plethora of nervous tissue in the walls of the gut. These circuits work with the brain to transport fluid, maintain blood flow, supporting nutrient uptake and gut functioning, such as peristalsis – the wave-like muscular motion of the gut – and stimulating cells in the stomach to produce acid to break down food. Since the ENS is part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that governs involuntary processes, we don’t need to think about gut functions for them to happen. Amazingly, the ENS is the only organ that operates independently of the brain.

We’ll learn how gut and brain ‘chat’ next month, but knowing more about this intelligence system in the gut really does put a spin on the phrase ‘smarty pants’!

For more from Eve Kalinik, visit evekalinik.com or follow her @evekalinik

Image: Getty

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