Why is it that we feel emotions such as anger, anxiety, joy, and happiness in our gut? What gives us that “gut feeling”? How does it impact our digestive system, and how can we help keep a healthy gut?
The gut is the only organ to have its own enteric nervous system (ENS) which enables it to function independently from the central nervous system (CNS). It is also connected bidirectionally to the brain (CNS) which helps explain those gut feelings that originate in the brain and have a significant impact on the biochemistry and function of the gut. Both serotonin and endorphins, which are responsible for changes in feelings, are found in the CNS and the ENS. Recent research has shown that anger can kill off “friendly” bacteria in the gut causing an imbalance between beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria. Acute stress can alter the production of stomach acid, either increasing it or decreasing it, and causing indigestion. Chronic stress can affect gut motor activity (constipation or diarrhea), intestine absorption of nutrients, and increase susceptibility to colon inflammation. However, happiness and relaxation have been shown to reduce motor activity and gastric distress. Surveys show that at least 40% of persons going to their MDs have GI problems. Many symptoms include abdominal pain or cramping, a bloated feeling, gas, alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, mucus in the stool, and a burning sensation in the upper abdomen. Let’s look at some of the factors that may contribute to these problems besides the
emotional factors already discussed.
There are 400-500 types of bacteria in the intestine. An optimum balance is approximately 80% beneficial bacteria to 20% nonbeneficial. Beneficial bacteria prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing on the intestinal wall and blocking nutrient absorption, or boring holes (e. coli) in the intestinal wall causing many micro-infections. Other factors that adversely affect the balance of bacteria in the intestine include: 1. antibiotics, 2. cortisone medication, 3. chlorinated water, 4. processed foods, 5. pollutants in the environment. Foods that promote the colonization of beneficial bacteria include: miso, cultured yogurt and kefir, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and tempeh. Many European and Asian cultures include these foods as a regular part of their diet, thereby promoting intestinal health. Corners has an excellent selection of cultured and fermented foods for your intestinal health. If you haven’t already, try the cultured “Krauts” found in the dairy refrigerator.
Some specific functions of beneficial bacteria include: 1. delayed development of allergies in children, 2. improved immune function, 3.
enhanced synthesis of B vitamins, 4. helping detox and remove harmful substances, 5. preventing colon cancer by increasing levels of interferon and removing cancer causing elements.
Research uses probiotics (beneficial bacteria) to study their effect on various intestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel and Crohn’s disease. Preliminary studies show a benefit in managing the symptoms of these various intestinal conditions. Probiotics are also useful as a supplement to the diet during/after antibiotics, cortisone, or any other intestinal virus/bacteria overgrowth resulting in diarrhea/constipation etc. Eating a diet of whole foods, raw fruits and vegetables, and fermented/cultured food will promote intestinal health. Corners has many probiotic supplements for those occasions requiring intestinal balance or for individuals with a chronic condition that would benefit from daily supplementation. A consultant can help you select from
the various combination’s of probiotic supplements.