Have you heard about the gut-brain axis? Your gut and your brain are connected. Read on to learn how and get tips to enhance your gut and brain health.
Gut health is crucial to overall health --you can read about some amazing facts about your gut here, and this post talks about a popular gut health myth that I debunked. But today I am sharing something that might surprise you.
Your digestion affects everything.
In short - digestion affects your brain.
But did you know that your brain affects your digestion?
Datis Kharrazian is one of the world's foremost experts in adrenal health and digestion health and he says that poor digestion is actually one of the earliest signs of a poorly functioning brain.
How can this be?
Well, our brains control everything, right? From breathing to reflexes to voluntary and involuntary movements. As such, the brain also controls the digestive system by activating the autonomic functions.
If your brain isn't working right then it can throw your digestion off. It just makes common sense, but here's how it works.
It is impossible for a person to become healthy mentally or physiologically without a healthy brain.” – Datis Kharrazian, DC, M.S
The Gut-Brain Axis
The direct connection between the brain and the digestive system is the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is large and stretches from the brainstem to all the major organs in the body including the digestive tract.
If the connection isn't working properly, or there isn't enough stimulation, then other organs and systems are affected--including your digestive system.
Peristalsis might not work properly (that is the muscular movement that moves food through your digestive system)
You might not release enough enzymes, or in the correct proportions
Not enough stomach acid (HCl) might be released
You might experience:
- and more
So many of our bodily functions operate on the "use it or lose it" principle. If you neglect physical exercise, your muscles atrophy. Stop using your brain and your thought processes become less sharp. Women do kegels and other exercises to maintain pelvic floor health, and your abdominal muscles can atrophy, giving you a "mummy tummy" if you don't exercise them properly.
Similarly, if you don't reinforce the Gut Brain Axis, your digestion can suffer.
4 Ways to Improve Digestion By Stimulating Your Gut Brain Axis
Try gargling water for 3-4 seconds at first. Ultimately, you want to work up to gargling for several minutes. If your eyes start tearing, you basically know that you are doing it right.
Typically this will be quite difficult for those with a weak gut brain axis to accomplish at first.
2. Gag Reflex
Buy a box of tongue depressors like these and use them to activate your gag reflex, of course, being careful not to put the depressor back too far in your throat.
Again, if your eyes start to tear up, you are firing the pathway correctly.
3. Sing Out Loud
Whether you have a good voice or not, do sing loudly for good gut health. If you're a bit tone deaf, then I recommend doing this in private :).
You could sing in the car, the shower, or anywhere you feel you can.
4. Coffee Enema
This is something that is super unpleasant to talk about but it is something that many in the alternative health world tout as being crucial to overall digestive health and detoxing. It's not recognized as being beneficial in many mainstream circles, so please do your own research and consult your physician before doing this.
Typically, the purpose of a coffee enema is for detoxing the liver. In this case, however, you are not using the coffee enema for that reason, but instead you are using the caffeine in the coffee to stimulate receptors in the gut. Dr. Kharazzian recommends trying to hold the enema as long as possible in order to fire the vagal enteric axis.
If you plan on trying enemas, please get a high quality enema kit like one from this company.
Of course, in addition to all of this, one should consider taking probiotics, digestive enzymes, and the like.
But according to Dr. Kharazzian, the most neglected part of treating those with chronic digestive issues is the gut brain axis.
I know it's a new concept to me and I find it to be fascinating.
Digestion is so important. If it's off, your health is off.
Here is Dr. Kharazzian's talk about the gut brain axis and about most of these tips in more detail here.
If you are interested in learning more from Dr. Kharazzian, the following is one of his most popular books. Dr. Kharazzian's book, Why Isn't My Brain Working is a great resource.
I plan to have this on my nightstand soon. Care to join me?
Please note - this is not medical advice.
Please do not make changes to your diet or supplements without consulting with your physician. This post is for entertainment purposes only.
Since first publishing this post, I have found out about this company (Amare) that makes focuses on Gut / Brain Support.
My whole family just started using them, and we are seeing some amazing results.
Better digestion (probiotics that really work!), better moods, better sleep.
Here is a mental wellness quiz to assess how you are doing. You will get some additional recommendations for helpful ways to boost your gut and brain health too.
I highly recommend the Fundamental Set as a great way to support your gut and brain. Many people report great results.
Did you know about the gut-brain connection before reading this?