What is the Gut-Brain Axis or “Super Highway”?
Let’s look at the Meriam-Webster gut definition for a moment. The Definition of the gut according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. (1)The bowels, part of the alimentary canal and especially the intestines or stomach: belly, abdomen. (2) The basic visceral or emotional part of a person.
Do you notice how the gut is also woven into an individual’s emotions? We have all heard the cliche, a “Gut Feeling” about something. There is some scientific and biological truth to that statement.
It is no shocker that what we think about or focus on can stress us out at times nor is it a surprise that stress affects the body negatively. The connection to make is that not only do our brain patterns impact our health, they directly influence gut health and vice versa.
Changes in a person’s mental state, like feeling scared or nervous, can lead to immediate problems in the gut. Do you remember ever having to do a big presentation or take a major test and experience heartburn or diarrhea as a result? That’s the brain and the gut in communication along what I like to refer to as “the gut brain superhighway.”
Your gut uses the vagus nerve like a walkie-talkie to tell your brain how you’re feeling via electric impulses called “action potentials.” Your gut feelings are very real.
Events that the mind views as stressors causes the brain to send signals to the gut. That is why when someone is nervous or anxious they can have an upset stomach. If you have an unhealthy gut, a symptom can also be anxiousness causing a cyclical effect.
Researchers have also uncovered connections between intestinal bacteria and anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. Research suggests this link is due to intestinal bacteria’s ability to make small molecules, called metabolites, that can reach the brain and impact how it works.
Healthy Gut = Happy Mood
95% of serotonin production begins in the gut
The Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve with the widest distribution of any nerve in the body and it connects the intestinal tract with the brain
90% of all the signals passing along this nerve are traveling from the gut to the brain, not from the brain downward
I could go on all day about the benefits of a healthy gut, but I think it more beneficial to take you back to where and with whom the study of gut health began.
It is no coincidence that both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, arguably the two oldest systems of medicine on the planet, consider gut health and digestion to be one of the major factors in our health. The forerunners of modern medicine discovered this through thousands of years of observation and clinical practicing. There is an absolute direct link existing between a person’s gut health and their physical and mental well being.
We can travel back to around 500 BC, in Greece where Hippocrates, the father of western medicine began separating the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits.
- Hippocrates also professed that all disease begins in the gut which coincides with the message preached by the two oldest forms of medicine, Chinese and Ayurveda.
- Within Chinese medicine there exist written descriptions from the Shang Dynasty era as early as 1600-1046 BC implementing the gut being the center of both health and disease.
- Ayurvedic medicine, which evolved in India thousands of years ago places gut health at the center of overall heath. This particular form of medicine is considered to be the world’s oldest healthcare system. Its’ name means the “science of life.” Some of the more radical Ayurvedic doctors do not even acknowledge the presence of particular diseases, believing that all imbalances in the body stem from digestive problems and problematic diets in one form or another.
If the foundation and beginning of all medicine derives from gut health, I believe it is a fair assumption that gut health must not be ignored.
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