You use the terminology all the time, talking about the gut-wrenching accident or getting butterflies in your stomach, but what many don’t know is the gut is hugely important and acts as a second brain, influencing both mood and behavior independently.
My Gut Does What?
The colon, or large intestine, is typically associated with making stool, which it does, but its role in the body is so much more than just being a poop-maker. The enteric nervous system (ENS), the gut’s neural network, is a complex system consisting of neurotransmitters, hormones, and around 500 million neurons found on the inside lining of the gut. The gut communicates with your brain through a network of nerves from fetal tissue, and chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and electrical impulses keep your body functioning properly.
What About My Nervous Poops?
Since both the colon and the brain share a complex system, psychological factors influence the physical and vice versa. A prime example of these nervous, emotional responses is the nervous poops. Nervous poops are just the body’s response to anxiety caused by excitement, which can cause butterflies in the stomach. This anxiety kicks the body’s flight or fight mechanism, releasing extra adrenaline into your system. When this adrenaline isn’t used, the gut gets disturbed. When it’s minor, you get butterflies; when it’s significant, you get the runs.
The Connection Between Stress and Your Sweet Tooth
Another example of how your gut and brain connect involves the natural craving for sugary comfort foods when dealing with stress. It may explain some of the reasons why so many people struggle with sweets. When you’re stressed, you’re 75 percent more likely to crave sweets and have higher leptin levels, a hormone that increases appetite. But why are those stressed out more likely to crave? Because sugar reduces the stress response in the brain and lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. So when you’ve had a crappy day, and you find yourself reaching for a Snickers, it’s not because you don’t have willpower; it’s because your gut’s trying to help your brain.
If you want to be your health hero, start paying attention to what your body’s telling you. Be aware of the connection between your brain and your gut and work towards total body health and wellness.
- Increase probiotics with greek yogurt
- Reduce excess sugars
- Cut refined carbohydrates
- Exercise 3-5 days a week for 30 minutes
- Practice mindfulness through yoga or meditation