Did you know that hidden in the walls of our digestive system, we have a second brain called the gut-brain-axis and it is transforming our understanding of the links between good gut health and mood?
The gut-brain-axis (GBA) consists of a two-way communication between our brain and our enteric nervous system, (neurons in our gut that control the function of our gastrointestinal tract).
This system of nerves in our gastrointestinal system has over 100 million neurons!!! This system has so many nerves our gut has earned the nickname “the gut brain” or “the second brain”.
Stress, anxiety and depression can have a direct impact on our “gut brain” and how well our gut works, and vice versa.
Our “gut brain” is influenced by our sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) modes and sends signals along the vagus nerve (an information highway) to our brain, relaying important messages about what’s going on.
This can influence how well our gut functions and helps explain why during times of worry, anxiety and stress (fight or flight) we may experience:
This two-way communication between our brain and our gut brain influences how we feel and think on a daily basis. A prime example of this in action is the feeling of butterflies in our stomach when we feel nervous or anxious before an important meeting or exam.
Probiotics and good gut bacteria support anxiety, mood and mental health
The balance of our gut bacteria matter when it comes to mental health. Recent advances in gut health research has highlighted the importance of certain gut bacteria in this bi-directional communication.
The health of our gut and the variety of our gut microbes influence how we think and how we feel.
Addressing leaky gut or any other gut imbalances is an essential step when it comes to supporting mental wellbeing, such as:
How does the gut brain and our actual brain communicate?
Our gut bacteria chat with our brain and vice versa and use different modes of communication, including:
The health of our gut has an effect on our brain and how we feel from day to day. Inflammation, a lack of microbial diversity and even specific species of gut bacteria have been linked with poor mental health including anxiety, low mood and depression. Research shows that altering bacteria in the gut through specific dietary changes may help to treat stress-related mood disorders and anxiety.
Contact me now to find out more about my 90-day personalised 1:1 support package to nail your nutrition and solve your anxiety and gut symptoms for good.
If you test positive for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, (SIBO), it means you may have bacteria in the small intestine which may be addressed medically (with antibiotics) or naturally (with anti-microbial supplements).
A SIBO friendly diet should also be introduced (more on that to come) and steps taken to support your general gut health. SIBO can be chronic in some people which suggests it may not be the root cause and further support and gut healing may be necessary.
If you test negative for SIBO, other causes of excessive bloating and gas could be food intolerance, digestive enzyme deficiency, bile insufficiency and/or bacterial imbalance in the large intestine. A comprehensive stool test may be helpful as it includes many of these markers. You may also enjoy reading my top five tips to prevent bloating.
Find out more about how we can work together to find the best approach for you here. If you'd like to arrange a time to chat we can discuss the best way forward for you here.
I’d love to know if you are incorporating any of my tips on how to reduce the risk of bloating? But, if you feel you have already tried absolutely EVERYTHING, and you have been given the all-clear by your GP but you are STILL struggling with excessive bloating, belching or gas, it might be time to consider Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or “SIBO”.
What is SIBO?
SIBO is when normal bacteria get moved from the large intestine into the small intestine where they can cause digestion problems, including excessive bloating and/or belching. SIBO is thought to be behind about 60% of IBS cases.
How can I get tested for SIBO in the UK?
Why test for SIBO?
Firstly, it’s helpful to get tested for SIBO so we know what we’re dealing with and so that once we have followed a nutritional programme we can retest to see how your levels are changing.
What is the SIBO test?
A SIBO test is a breath test where you collect multiple samples of breath over a three hour period. It measures levels of hydrogen and methane gases which will be produced if bacteria are present in the small intestine.
How can I get tested for SIBO?
To test for SIBO in the UK, you can try requesting a SIBO breath test from a GI consultant (requires referral by a GP) or, you can order one from me, a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist.
I've saved a story to my Instagram stories here to show you how the SIBO breath test works. It is very simple to complete at home. You can find a list of all the clinical test options I provide, including prices here. Full instructions on how to prepare for your SIBO test and complete the test are provided.
If you suspect SIBO, book a free call and we can chat further and make sure SIBO testing is the right test for you. You may also enjoy reading 'What Causes SIBO' and what to do if you test positive for SIBO here.
Experts at the British College of Nutrition and Health suggest IBS may not exist.
A really interesting (and exciting!) review of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has just been published. It considers whether or not IBS truly exists!
In the review, the author, Ben Brown (Brown, 2019), explains how IBS is not one disease but an umbrella term or ‘catch-all’ for multiple identifiable and treatable digestive symptoms which may be triggered by a combination of nutritional and lifestyle factors.
While symptoms may include excessive gas, bloating, and chronic diarrhoea or constipation, researchers found that it may not be one condition but a whole range of them. This is why the author poses the question ‘Does IBS exist?’ because it is rarely one thing.
Sadly, what frequently happens is people get labelled as IBS sufferers and told ‘there’s not much we can do about it’. However, doing this doesn’t address the underlying issue or issues and by clustering multiple digestive symptoms under one label risks “lazy thinking” and delays recovery.
Have you been told that you 'just have to live with IBS'?
The paper explores multiple nutritional factors that could be underlying IBS including:
Nutritional Therapy could help you identify the root causes.
Brown concludes that personalisation of treatment, including diet and nutritional support, is essential for supporting people with IBS because everyone will respond differently. He outlines potential management and treatment approaches, including nutritional therapies as a way to address the root causes of imbalance. Find out more here.
Here's a link to the review
Brown, B. (2019). Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome Exist? Identifiable and Treatable Causes of Associated Symptoms Suggest It May Not. [online] Gastrointestinal disorders. Available at: http://bit.ly/Does-IBS-Exist [Accessed 5 Aug. 2019].
Important 'Red Flags' to watch out for.
Please be aware that IBS must be diagnosed by a medical doctor so that serious disease can be ruled out. And if you experience any of the following please consult your doctor urgently:
Explore the 5-stages of gut healing at my 'Learn to Love your Gut' event this September.
Find out more and book your place now.
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