Gut-brain connection, simplified

Have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, excitement, and nervousness. These emotions can prompt symptoms in the gut.

The nervous system is intertwined within our gut walls and is known as the enteric nervous system. Our brains, including our thoughts and emotions, have a direct effect on the stomach. For example, the very thought of eating your favourite treat can release digestive juices before the food even gets there!

Vice versa can occur. If you’re stressed, the blood is diverted away from your digestive system, and your troubled brain sends signals to your gut, communicating that now is not a good time to eat. Eating under stress can sometimes cause unpleasant gut symptoms related to poor digestion, hence, the saying ‘rest and digest’. Our bodies were not designed to eat under duress. The cells within our digestive tract help to control digestion and the secretion of digestive factors, such as enzymes. It’s best to eat in a calm, relaxed physical and mental environment to optimise your digestion.

Here are some simple tips to help improve your gut health:

  • Reduce stress levels: Exposure to chronic stress can cause changes in the composition, diversity, and number of healthy gut bugs living in your microbiome. These bug buddies help to digest your food and support your immune system. It’s best we keep them happy!
  • Get checked for SIBO: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth manifests as unpleasant digestive symptoms that may worsen with increased fibre intake.
  • Probiotics and fibre rich vegetables and fruits: Once you get the all-clear for SIBO, ensure a daily dose of healthy bacteria from probiotics, or probiotic rich foods, and ensure your diet is adequate with fibre. Fibre feeds your good gut bacteria, allowing them to proliferate.
  • Hydrate: Adequate baseline hydration levels is 30 ml of pure water per kg of body weight, per day. Insufficient hydration can lead to poor stomach acid levels, thus poor digestion.
  • Get a good night’s rest: Poor sleep distresses your digestive system. Aim for 7-8 hours per night, ensuring your room is completely dark. A dark room allows your body to produce adequate amounts of the sleep-enhancing compound melatonin. Any exposure to light can affect your body’s production of melatonin, reducing the quality of your sleep.

If you would like to learn more about optimising your gut health book in with our Naturopath Amanda Harasym.Call Elevate at 9252 2225 today for more information, or to book a consultation


Harvard Medical School (2017). The gut-brain connection. Retrieved from http://

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