Instinctively, we have always known that there is a link between our gut and our mind, and our everyday language reveals this link very clearly. When we are nervous we describe ‘butterflies in our stomach’, when we are stressed, we describe a ‘stomach in knots’, and we often talk about ‘gut feelings’ or ‘gut instincts’.
What’s more, we experience this connection between the gut and the mind on a regular basis, such as the ‘sinking feeling’ we get the pit of our stomach when things suddenly don’t go our way, or when we get some bad news.
Stress related digestive problems
For many people, the gut mind connection goes a step further, causing digestive problems such as constipation or diarrhoea, which are seen by colon hydrotherapists on a daily basis. In many cases, the client is unaware of the link, or simply hasn’t joined the dots to make the connection, and simply doesn’t realise that it is not a physical problem that is disrupting their digestive system, but a psychological one.
So how does this gut mind link happen, and what can you do to find a balance and enjoy better physical, and mental, health?
The science of the gut mind link
There are as many neurones in the gut as there are in the spinal cord; hundreds of millions of them. What’s more, these neurones can operate independently of the central nervous system, forming their own enteric nervous system, often referred to as the second brain. This forms a direct link between the brain and the gut, which serves a number of obvious functions, such as telling you when you are hungry or when you need the toilet, but it also sends countless other messages too.
Most importantly, this link is a two way street, with messages from the gut affecting the brain, and messages from the brain affecting the gut. For example, stress messages from the brain can affect gut transit time and mucus production levels, which in turn affect the kind of microbes that thrive in the gut. In the other direction, microbes in the gut can affect the levels of key neurotransmitters, such as seratonin, which can significantly affect your mood.
Exciting new research
Exploration of the link between gut bacteria and the mind is a relatively new field in science, but is already showing promise. For example, John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork has found that disrupting the gut microbes in mice produced symptoms similar to anxiety and stress in humans, while adding selected bacteria back into the gut reduced these symptoms. Dr Cryan sees huge potential in these studies, with the possibility of a whole new field of psychobiotic drugs used to treat psychological disorders in the future.
Other studies have shown promising links between the gut microbiome and conditions such as autism. To read more about these studies, click on the links at the end of this article.
What does this mean to you?
Most ARCH therapists will attest to the fact that as many of their clients come to them with emotional problems as come to them with physical ones, though they may not have realised it or made the connection.
Your ARCH therapist will help you to understand how your gut and mind influence one another, and help you to move forward in dealing with the resulting digestive and emotional issues. They will guide you in taking control of both your stress levels and your diet, to try to find a balance in both your gut and your mind.
Along with this advice, your colonic treatment will cleanse the gut of excess mucus and ‘bad bacteria’ to normalise your digestive function and restore the balance of your gut microbiome, giving you the perfect start to the new you.