GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION 101

The gut-brain connection is so powerful in your immune health, hormonal health, and nervous system. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling then you know exactly what the gut-brain connection is. The gut-brain connection is a bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain. The gut, meaning our second nervous system or our enteric nervous system, and our brain, our first nervous system. This bi-directional communication happens through multiple pathways, including hormonal, immune, and our nervous system.  The objective of the gut-brain connection is to maintain normal gut function, as well as appropriate behavior.

The first brain has 100 billion neurons and our second brain, our gut has about 500 million neurons. You can see how powerful this neural connection is, and this neural connection happens primarily through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates in the brainstem and then wanders down to the gut. It signals in both directions. For example, if you are getting anxious about a presentation that you have to give you might feel that in your stomach, but if you are eating some kind of inflammatory foods, then that can cause you to potentially feel anxious.

Now, the next connection is hormonal, and this is based on the neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers that we have that communicate between the gut and the brain. Ninety percent of our serotonin is located in the gut that is produced by the gut bacteria. Serotonin is provides us with a sense of happiness. We also produce 50 percent of our dopamine, our feel-good hormone, in our gut. Another hormone we produce is called GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety.

Last but not least, our gut-brain in connected via immune pathways. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our gut. So, when we have any kind of gut issue, we typically have an immune or inflammatory issue. In the case of leaky gut, for example, when you begin to have pathogens and toxins that are crossing the epithelial lining and moving into the bloodstream, this is going to cause an immune reaction. If this continues, this can cause a leaky brain because those pathogens and potentially undigested food can cross the blood-brain barrier causing inflammation in the brain feeling things like brain fog. So, as you can see there is a very strong immune system connection as well.

You may be asking, what can I do to optimize my gut-brain connection? The first thing you can do is try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which simply means a whole food, natural, clean diet. Make sure that there are lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables and fruits. If you are experiencing any specific gut or health issues, please make sure to reach out to us we’d be more than happy to help you.  We can see you virtually or in person.

The next thing is to manage stress. Stress is one of the biggest things that can impact the gut-brain connection on both levels. You can help to decrease your stress through mindfulness, meditation, breath work, yoga, journaling, reading, or whatever is helpful for you, perhaps even speaking with someone.

Next, is making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Also make sure that you’re getting an optimal amount of sleep as well as quality sleep.

Lastly is movement. Instead of thinking of exercising 30 minutes a day, try to just move as frequently as you can throughout the day. This will help to optimize your immune system, nervous system, as well as your hormonal system by getting in regular quality movement.

I hope this helps you become more successful and achieving what you want in your life and your health.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation.

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7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you have trouble losing weight or feel groggy in the morning? If you do, you should definitely read this.

Here are seven important tips on how to improve your sleep habits.

  1. Minimizing or Avoiding Stimulants

Do you want to take a guess of what the biggest offender is?… drumroll… alcohol. It’s important to limit alcohol within three hours of going to bed because it is something that will negatively impact the quality of your sleep. Even though you might be asleep for seven hours, it doesn’t mean that you are getting the proper REM and deep sleep that you need. Have you ever woken up after a night drinking and felt a little crappy, under the weather, with a little brain fog? That’s the effects of alcohol.

Decrease TV and phone time! If you are using blue light, please consider wearing blue light blockers after 7 pm. Otherwise, this can be a huge stimulant. See number three for planning and preparation.

Third, consuming caffeinated beverages after two o’clock such as soda, coffee, or iced tea can contribute to restless nights. You also want to limit any type of decongestants or other cold medicines because they act as stimulants.

Lastly, you want to try to limit aerobic exercise after six o’clock, or at least three hours before bed time.

These are all things that can keep you awake or prevent you from going to sleep in the first place.

2. Decrease Nighttime Tension and Anxiety

First, avoid any anxiety-provoking or stimulating activities before bed. Some examples of these activities are watching the news, having an argument with your child or spouse, doing financials, reading the stocks, etc.

The more you perseverate on what you need to do the next day, the more stressed you become, followed by a rise in cortisol levels.  Also, try to limit negative judgments associated with not being able to go to sleep. If you feel like you can’t go to sleep, and you keep having thoughts about why you can’t go to sleep, then that will also feed into the inability to fall or stay asleep. When you start to have those thoughts, try taking some diaphragmatic breaths and remind yourself that there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.

3. Planning and Preparation

The most important aspect of preparing for sleep is developing some type of ritual before bed. We know that the amount of sleep is really important and it’s a little bit different for each person. However, you do want to think about allotting for eight to nine hours of time in bed, although all of that will not be actual sleep time. So, when you are preparing your schedule keep that in mind so you can strive to prepare for that amount of time in bed.

Another thing to plan for is preparing for sleep about 30 minutes before bed with something that will relax your nervous system. This could be done by breathing, meditation, yoga, reading, essential oils, taking a bath with Epsom salt, etc. So, there’s lots of options and you just need to figure out what is best for you.

You also want to think about finishing eating within three hours of bed time. The late-night snacking is not ideal because your body is trying to digest, which is a huge metabolic process, while you’re trying to rest, regenerate, and repair. It’s really challenging to do both of those things at the same time.

Overall, just think about preparing your body to relax, so you can calm your nervous system. Epsom salt baths and lavender can be really powerful for that.

4. Strategies to Use with Trouble Falling Asleep or Staying Asleep

These strategies can be very beneficial and it doesn’t matter who you are, what age you are, or the reason for your ability to not be sleeping. These are all universal.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and you’re up for 20 to 30 minutes, then you want to actually get out of bed. Go into another room, perhaps a relaxing room and do something calming. That could be breathing, meditating, journaling, or write down what you’re experiencing in that moment. Try to down-regulate (i.e. relax) your system and then return back to sleep.

If your beloved partner is snoring, consider ear plugs to prevent you from awakening.

Drinking water before bed is almost a sure way to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate. Try to limit within an hour of bed.

Another strategy is to make don’t have any EMF within eight feet of you, which includes your phone, tv, etc. This will help you get good quality sleep.

5. Light, Noise, Temperature, and the Environment

Try to keep your room as dark as you possibly can. You can use dark window shades and block out any lights that are showing in your room. Also, keep your room cool. Electric blankets, for example, can cause you to wake up very hot and frequently during the night.

6. Bedding and Pillows

As it relates to bedding, think hypoallergenic. Also, the appropriate amount of pillows is important.  If you’re a side sleeper, for example, make sure you have enough support for your neck so that you’re not in an uncomfortable position that causes pain. If you have bursitis in your hip and it’s difficult to lay on your hip, roll away from the hip so there’s not as much contact there. And of course, if you have pain anywhere, see a physical therapist!

7. Supplements

Melatonin is the most commonly prescribed over-the-counter sleep supplement. One to five milligrams can be taken to fall asleep, and/or you could take five to 20 milligrams of time-release melatonin to stay asleep. Taurine and magnesium can also be beneficial. There are calming herbs like ashwagandha that can help decrease cortisol. Also, drinking herbal teas before bed can be very beneficial.

Summary

These are seven tips that can really help you get that quality sleep you deserve. Just like anything else, start small. Choose one or two things out of this list and work on them until they become a habit.  

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help, reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

Other things that may interest you:

Top 5 Vagus Nerve Hacks to Help You Relax and Restore

How to Map Your Own Nervous System: The Polyvagal Theory

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash