Before we talk about the link between gut and the brain let’s first understand how the brain and its highly sophisticated nervous system works. The Central Nervous System (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord and its responsible for coordinating body activities.
Now here is where it gets interesting, the gut also has a complex nervous system known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). So, while the CNS regulates your body activities, the ENS operates independently; essentially the gut has its own brain!
Since it has its own brain, the gut also contains neurotransmitters. I’m not going to go into too much about these, but to put it simply they are chemical messengers which help regulate processes such as emotions, fear, attention, focus, sleep etc.
So how is this all linked?
Well the gut actually contains more neurotransmitters than the brain. About 50% of dopamine is produced in the gut, which will affect things like focus and drive, and 95% of serotonin, the body’s mood hormone, is produced in the gut. These are just a few of the facts to show you the clear importance between the health of your gut and how you are feeling.
What can you implement to improve your gut health?
So far, we talked about the link between your gut and brain, also how that plays a role in how you feel. Next are a few simple things you can do to maintain your good gut health or improve it. Let’s go with the three I think are the most important:
- Eating the right foods.
It is essential that you eat food that agrees with your gut microbiome. Understand that your gut flora is different to the next individual so prioritise foods that work for you. Eat whole foods that are rich in fibre and micronutrient dense and reduce the amount of processed foods. Foods that are high in sugar feed pathogens within your gut.
- Reduce stress
We all deal with stress, so we can only do our best to manage it. Not only does stress affect the physiological function of the gut, but it has also been shown to actually cause changes in the composition of the gut flora. It’s essential to have good relationships and have a positive/supportive environment around you to try and reduce stress. Incorporating yoga and meditation will do great things to relieve stress.
- Get enough sleep
Broken sleep will increase the stress hormone cortisol, which can damage the gut lining. Don’t think you are hardcore waking up at 3am to train, real people get enough sleep so they can have more productive training sessions.
If you want to know any more, please leave a comment below!