Have you ever had a gut-wrenching experience? There's a reason they exist. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotions, anger, anxiety, sadness, etc. All of these emotional feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut.
The brain can directly affect the stomach. Thich is easily demonstrated by the feeling of hunger that we get at the very thought of eating something delicious. We can also feel nausea in the gut before giving a presentation or feel abdominal pain while we are stressing. If someone jumps in front of you, you have a physical reaction, perhaps sweaty palms and a clenched stomach.
The walls of the digestive system house the brain in your gut, also known as the enteric nervous system (ENS.) The ENS controls digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down the food we eat. Research on the enteric nervous system suggests that it communicates back and forth with our brain. The ENS triggers emotional shifts for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.
These findings help us understand how bowel-disorder treatments such as antidepressants and mind-body therapies can improve gut health. It is not uncommon to be prescribed antidepressants by a gastroenterologist to treat gut health. Also, patients who take probiotics show twice as much of an improvement in mood compared to the placebo. With an improvement in the gut, comes an improvement of wellbeing.
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