The brain and gut have a close, two-way connection. The link between the brain and the stomach is so important to the working of our bodies that some people refer to the gut as the body’s “second brain.”
In this week’s Winter Wellness segment, Stephanie Nishek, a Naturopathic Doctor in Bismarck, shares her knowledge of how a stressed-out gut can cause mental stress.
Nishek says there are a lot of health issues we will see year-round. But since it’s winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder is most common this time of year, as well as symptoms of depression.
She notes digestion issues and depression are correlated. When your guts aren’t happy, it’s hard for the rest of you to be happy.
Some reasons for digestion issues include dietary choices, high-stress lifestyles, not enough sleep, use of stimulants and food intolerance. But mostly, she says, the issues come back to stress on a healthy digestive tract.
“We are burning the candle at both ends,” Nishek says. “How often do you sit and take a couple of breaths and mindfully eat our food?”
Some signs of poor digestion are heartburn, belching, gas, bloating, not feeling good and constipation. Some other signs to pay attention to are headaches after you eat, having a hard time focusing, itchiness or brain fog. These are indicators of food sensitivities.
In the field of naturopathic medicine, issues are addressed individually. Nishek likes to joke about the “cat brain” in our digestive tract.
“Calling our second brain the cat brain is a tongue in cheek way of relaying to people the amount of neurological connections we have in our digestive tract,” Nishek explains. “So if you clump all those connections together, it’s like the size of a cat’s brain,” said Nishek.
She says some easy ways to make positive changes in gut health to feel emotionally well are eating real food, pay attention to how you feel after you eat, avoid eating heavy meals when stressed out, choose foods like smoothies or veggies juice instead.