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Have any of you ever heard or used the saying, "gut feeling," maybe when you were meeting someone new for the first time, or you may have been told to "trust your gut instinct" when making a difficult decision? 
 
Your answer to this may be "YES! This is me, I've totally heard that before!" or "Nope. Never heard those sayings in my life." That's cool, I'll dive right into the brain-gut connection and hopefully by the end, you'll have an extensive understanding of what it is. 
 
Have any of you ever experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, maybe after seeing your phone or credit card bill? Or experienced butterflies in your stomach when you were about to do something way out of your comfort zone? Well, these feelings are vivid examples of the brain-gut connection at work. Your gut knows your stressed or nervous. It's impressive how in touch it is with our emotions. 
Here's a fun fact for you guys: The body is actually composed of more bacteriathan cells. This means we are more bug than human! The trillions of bacteria found in our digestive track are known as the microbiome

The gut is no longer being thought of as having a sole purpose of helping with all aspects of digestion. Now, it is being recognised as having a key role in regulating inflammation and immunity.

Having an array of different bacteria in the gut is considered very healthy, and having this diversity maintains wellness. However, a small shift away from “normal” gut microbiota diversity is called dysbiosis, and this can contribute to disease. In fact, the microbiome has become a new way of understanding gastrointestinal, autoimmune, and even brain disorders.
Early development illustrates most effectively the importance of having a healthy gut. While a fetus is growing, it is very sensitive to any changes that may occur in a mother’s microbiotic makeup. So much so in fact, that it can alter the way a baby’s brain develops. When a baby is born naturally through the vaginal canal, it ingests the mother's gut flora. However, if the baby is born via a cesarean, it misses this opportunity, and so will have to work to regain the same diversity in their microbiome as those born vaginally. Throughout our lives, our microbiome fluctuates for better or worse, as we are exposed to stress, toxins, chemicals, certain diets, and even exercise.

The Gut As Our Second Brain

Our gut flora plays a crucial role in our psychological and physical health by way of its own neural network: the enteric nervous system (ENS). This network consists of about 100 million nerves found in the lining of the gut.

The ENS is sometimes referred to as the “second brain,” emerging from the same tissues as our central nervous system (CNS) during fetal development. This means it contains many structural and chemical similarities to the brain.

What's interesting is, though our ENS doesn’t think the same way as the brain in our skull does, the combination of hormones, neurotransmitters, and electrical impulses that travel through the pathway of nerves, allows both “brains” to communicate back and forth. In fact, because the brain and gut are so intimately connected, it sometimes seems like one system, not two.

Poor Gut Health And Its Link To Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

New Research has shown a link between poor gut health and neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Disruptions in the health of the gut has been linked to autistic spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. This can be caused from an inflammed gut resulting from an imbalance in gut flora. Age-related gut changes and Alzheimer’s disease have also been shown to have a connection. 

What's more, recent studies describe depression as being an inflammatory disorder brought on by poor gut health. Multiple animal studies have shown that changing the gut bacteria in some way can produce behaviors related to anxiety and depression.

Treatment Implications

Achieving proper gut health can assist with both prevention and treatment of neurological/neuropsychiatric difficulties. Stress is one of the major causes of ill health as it places immense pressure on the body. Reducing stress can help prevent and treat gastrointestinal disorders. 

Making daily healthy lifestyle choices will play a crucial role in determining your overall level of health. You hold the power to your health. What will you choose to do with it?

Before we finish, I wanted to leave you with a quote that I thought really applied to the message in this post, and that is; "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." - Jim Rohn 
References: 
 
Sonnenburg, Justin, Sonnenburg, Erica, (2015, May 1), "Gut Feelings–the "Second Brain" in Our Gastrointestinal Systems [Excerpt]", (Scientific American), Available: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain-in-our-gastrointestinal-systems-excerpt/ (Accessed: 2017, August 7).
 
Wolkin, Jennifer, (2015, August 14), "Meet Your Second Brain: The Gut", (mindful), Available: https://www.mindful.org/meet-your-second-brain-the-gut/ (Accessed: 2017, August 7).