Are your emotions gut friendly? Constipation may be influenced by your state of mind which plays a key role in your digestion and gut health. Modern day to day stressful events and unconscious lifestyle choices can have a hugely detrimental affect on our digestion and overall resilience. In the journal ‘The Neurobiology of Stress’, a pre clinical study on the Microbiota-Gut-brain-Axis suggests that maintaining a diverse microbiota can improve our resilience to stress and immune related disorders.1 Functional gastrointestinal disorders are considered to result from altered gut bacteria via the gut-brain-axis. which communicate and influence one another.
How does our Emotional Landscape influence Constipation?
The microbial communities in our gut may well play a key role in central nervous system activity by affecting the production of signalling molecules such as neurotransmitters and hormones. 90% of serotonin (the hormone that makes us feel good) is produced in the gut and it plays a role in stimulating peristalsis and keeping our bowels regular. Deficiencies in serotonin have been associated with reduced gut motility.2 Our fight or flight stress response where all energy is directed towards fuelling the brain, heart, and muscles is vital for survival, however when over stimulated this pathway can disrupt optimal functioning of the nervous system and digestive system. Sustained or chronic stress increases the stress hormone cortisol and reduces the happy hormone serotonin. When the body is in sympathetic nervous system dominance it focuses all of its energy on being able to run away from danger and survive an impending attack. This was a useful mechanism when we reigned as hunter gathers but in modern day life ongoing stressors can disrupt our inner harmony. As a consequence digestion ultimately shuts down. In parasympathetic mode (rest and digest) the body is relaxed and can concentrate on digesting food and eliminating waste. The gut brain axis can be supported with psychobiotics which can positively influence your emotional landscape and mental wellbeing. Research shows that strain specificity is key in supporting mood and anxiety.
Can psychobiotics have a positive affect on constipation?
An imbalance in bacteria can lead to a dysfunctional gut-brain-axis and cause gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS.3 Our gut bacteria influences our gut brain axis via the enteric nervous system and the vagus nerve which carries information to and from the brain. It is like a highway of information which allows the gut microbes to talk to the brain. Psychobiotics is a new area of research that is beginning to show beneficial psychological effects in humans. Preliminary research in the role that gut bacteria plays in stress and anxiety has shown that the microbiota is a key facilitator of stress adaptation.4 The gut brain neural communication pathway has come to be known as the second brain and extends along the entire length of the gut. The gut brain axis plays a key role in regulating gut motility and resident gut bacteria are involved in these communication pathways. If we can influence our microflora garden we can support optimal gut motility and regular bowel movements.
Seven ways to balance your emotional Landscape:
> Mindful Eating
Take a PAUSE and consciously acknowledge the food you are about to eat.
RELAX. Eat your food in a relaxed environment away from your phone and work desk. Eating whilst distracted will have a negative effect on your ability to digest food efficiently.
CHEW your food thoroughly. Digestion starts in the mouth with your saliva which contains digestive enzymes to kick start the breakdown of your food.
> Nootropic supplements
2018 is the year of Nootropics so watch out for them. Nootropics are congnitive enhancers and brain boosters that work by modulating the release of important brain chemicals and so can be a great way to support mood, anxiety, gut health and motivation. Examples include the amino acid 5-HTP, which converts in to serotonin and supports sleep and mood, Probiotics to support healthy levels of bacteria in your gut, and L-Theanine which is found in Green tea, and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
> Vagal nerve Exercises
The vagus nerve connects the gut to the brain and can be stimulated with coffee enemas, singing loudly, and gargling. Muscles in the back of the throat are connected to the vagus nerve so by gargling with water a few times a day you can stimulate the vagus nerve. Sing in your car, chant a meditation, or go to a Kirtan sing along. Coffee enemas are a great way to stimulate and activate the vagus nerve.
> Mood Foods
Make sure your are getting enough protein in your diet as protein contains amino acids including tryptophan which is the building block for serotonin, our feel good neurotransmitter. Organic lean meats, wild fish, beans, pulses, eggs, nuts, seeds.
> Increase your Prebiotic rich foods. Foods such as onions, garlic, artichoke, chicory, banana, and cold potato will support the growth of a thriving gut garden rich in beneficial bacteria. A healthy microbiome will support optimal production of neurotransmitters, hormones, and vitamins. B vitamins are produced in the gut and play a role in producing chemicals that affect mood.
Take a big deep belly breath to calm the nervous system before eating and switch your body into parasympathetic mode. (rest and digest)
> Heart Math App
Dowload the inner balance Heart Math app which measures Heart rate Variability (HRV) and indicates how emotional states are affecting your nervous system. An innovative approach to wellness which can support your resilience to stress with breathing exercises and visualisations.
For further reading you may be interested in reading the following articles.
1 Rea K et al, (2016)’The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation’, Neurobiology of Stress, vol. 4, pp. 23-33.
2 Made G M, Hoffman J M, (Aug 2013) ‘Serotonin Signalling in the Gastrointestinal Tract.’ Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol’, vol 10(8), pp. 473-486
3 Zhou L, Foster J A, (2015) ‘Psychobiotics and the gut-brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness’, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, vol 11, pp. 715-723
4 Rea K et al, (2016)’The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation’, Neurobiology of Stress, vol. 4, pp. 23-33