Contrary to popular belief, the ‘gut’ isn’t just another holistic health buzzword or doomed to just a feeling.
In fact, you and your gut are more intimately acquainted than you may realize. From birth the two have been in constant communication. This article will you decode the language of the gut, so you are able to better understand how gut health affects mental health and sleep.
The mind-body-gut connection
If you’re familiar with our Journal, you know that we often describe the mind-body connection as your body and mind being so intrinsically synched that your physical and emotional well-being drastically affect one another. This becomes even more apparent when you look at the role (and communication style) of the gut.
That connection is so innate and instinctual that it should come as no surprise that your gut holds so much power over your mental state. However, if you take a moment to reconnect with your body, you will realize that, on some level, you must have already been aware of this natural link between your mind, body and gut.
For example, do you remember those butterflies you’d feel whenever you saw your crush? Or those stomach-in-knots feelings you get whenever you’re nervous after a business meeting? Well, these moments are proof of how connected our emotions and gut are.
And while we now know that our mind, body and gut are synced, what exactly is the role of the gut?
What is the gut?
In life, we often find ourselves using phrases like “you need to listen to your gut” or “follow your gut”. And while these common phrases may just roll off the tongue, there is a reason why they exist and feel like a natural response in certain scenarios.
Your gut is a powerhouse, a source of wisdom and the greatest reminder of our humanness. Essentially, understanding the power of your body means understanding the power of your gut.
Defining the gut – without the painstaking biological jargon
The gut, otherwise known as the digestive tract, is a 10 m-long tube that incorporates a number of organs of the body. They include your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, liver and pancreas. Together they form a robust and intricate system designed to support, nourish and -most importantly- offer you healing from the inside out.
What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut
It's easy to think of your body as a sum of parts that all work independently. However, your body is not just a vessel for organs, it’s a gracious home to light and energy, all of which work together to create YOU. And while your organs may communicate with one another, they also actively speak to you. This is especially true for the gut. Your gut has a direct line to your brain, communicating via bodily triggers when it is in need of help.
The gut has adopted its own sophisticated language; almost like its own personal vernacular between both itself and the brain. When there is an overflow of bad bacteria in the gut, which ultimately threatens its overall functioning, the gut will send messages to the brain - via neurotransmitters - alerting the mind that the gut is under threat.
All of these brain-to-gut triggers will then directly influence your overall well-being and psychological welfare.
These internal triggers to the brain then present themselves to you as varying symptoms, including hunger grumbles, irregular bathroom habits, nervous “butterflies”, depression, anxiety and more.
Once you understand the language of the gut, the better you will understand your body and its needs. Simply put: When your gut isn’t happy, neither is the rest of your body.
How gut health affects mental health
While our first-grade human anatomy illustrations had us thinking that our hearts controlled all of our emotions, it's actually the gut that holds immense influence over our mental state.
When we feel misaligned or struggle with our mental health, oftentimes it’s because of an overactive gut that is continuously releasing a stress response to the brain.
In fact, chemical imbalances that contribute to mental health issues aren’t solely chemical imbalances found in the brain. They’re chemical imbalances of the gut too!
The gut even produces approximately 90% of the serotonin in your body (that’s your happy, mood-booting hormone). This means that when you feel happy, you have your gut to thank for that. Happy gut, happy mind.
How your gut health affects your sleep
Very few things in life are as frustrating as sleep irregularities. Depriving your body of adequate rest will drastically affect every aspect of your life. Your body doesn’t just ask for moments of pause and rest … it demands it.
However, poor gut health could be robbing you of the restorative power of sleep.
Your circadian rhythm is the intuitive cycle that helps you fall asleep. These rhythms are incredibly sensitive and are easily disrupted when your gut is not functioning at its optimal level. Your gut biome is able to completely disrupt your circadian rhythms, leaving you feeling restless, struggling to fall asleep or suffering from insomnia.
Pursuing a holistic lifestyle is the most fulfilling and healing journey you will ever embark on if you start with your gut health.
That is because it is your anchoring point and home base.
Your gut offers you the perfect real estate to actively take charge of your own health narrative. Sign up for our wellness newsletter for tips to help bring you back into your own body and experience beautiful moments of peace.