Understanding the Gut/Brain Connection


Understanding the Gut/Brain Connection

By Dr. Hannah Lollar

The significance of gut health cannot be overstated as it plays a pivotal role in our overall well-being. The gut is responsible for the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients from the foods we consume, providing essential building blocks for our body's functions. Moreover, it houses a complex ecosystem of microorganisms, known as the gut microbiota, which interacts with our immune system, influences our mood, and plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy inflammatory response. Poor gut health has been linked to a range of health issues, including digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, mental health disorders, and even systemic inflammation. By prioritizing gut health through a balanced diet rich in fiber, fermented foods, and probiotics, managing stress, and avoiding harmful substances, we can support optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, and overall vitality.

Taking care of the nervous system is vital when it comes to promoting optimal gut health. The nervous system and the gut have a close relationship, often referred to as the gut-brain axis. Stress, anxiety, and other emotional factors can significantly impact the function of the gut. Chronic stress can lead to increased inflammation, decreased blood flow to the digestive organs, and altered gut motility, all of which can contribute to digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). By prioritizing activities that support the nervous system, such as stress reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity, individuals can create a more harmonious balance between their mind and gut. Nurturing the nervous system through self-care practices not only helps manage stress but also promotes healthier digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut well-being.

Common causes of gut health imbalance stem from the following:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Food sensitivities/intolerances
  • Stress
  • Poor eating habits 
  • Environmental toxins 
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Poor sleep
  • Lack of physical exercise 
  • Intestinal permeability 

As a naturopathic doctor, I have many tools to help assess the root cause of most gut concerns. Stress is consistently a major factor with gut complaints such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas and pain. When my patients prioritize their stress management and the health of their nervous system, symptoms significantly improve. Below I have listed some simple ways to optimize the health of your gut and nervous system. 

  • Flower Essences 
  • Flower essences have been known to have a positive impact on calming the nervous system, which in turn can contribute to healthier gastrointestinal (GI) health. When the nervous system is constantly in a state of stress or hyperactivity, it can negatively affect the functioning of the GI system, leading to digestive issues such as indigestion, bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

    Furthermore, flower essences can address emotional factors that contribute to GI health. They can help address underlying emotional imbalances, such as fear, worry, or emotional eating, which can impact digestion. By addressing these emotional aspects, flower essences support overall emotional well-being, which can have a positive ripple effect on GI health.

    Read below to learn more about Dr. Hannah’s “Serenity” flower essence blend, which utilizes gentle but powerful flower essences to help support the nervous system. 

    White Chestnut: This remedy is believed to support a peaceful state of mind, reduce mental tension, and alleviate worries and anxieties. It aids in releasing obsessive thought patterns and fosters a more serene and centered mental state.It is particularly beneficial for individuals who experience repetitive or racing thoughts, mental chatter, or difficulty in finding inner peace. The essence works by promoting mental clarity, stillness, and a sense of tranquility.

    Impatiens: This remedy is believed to support emotional balance, reduce irritability, and alleviate feelings of impatience and tension. It encourages individuals to approach situations with a more relaxed and adaptable mindset, fostering better communication and understanding with others. It is especially beneficial for individuals who tend to be easily frustrated, restless, or find it challenging to wait for things. The essence works by restoring a sense of inner peace and tranquility, helping individuals develop greater patience and tolerance in their daily lives.

    Crab Apple: This essence is commonly used to address issues related to self-image, body image, and obsessive tendencies. It can assist in cultivating a healthier relationship with oneself and in embracing imperfections. It is believed to help individuals release feelings of self-doubt, shame, or impurity, both on a physical and emotional level. It supports the process of letting go of negative self-perception and promotes a sense of inner cleanliness and acceptance.

    Vervain: This remedy promotes balance, relaxation, and inner calm. It helps release tension and encourages a more peaceful way of being. This essence supports finding equilibrium and embracing a balanced and centered life. It is particularly beneficial for individuals who tend to be highly driven, intense, or passionate. The essence works by helping individuals find a state of inner calm, releasing tension and allowing for a more balanced approach to life.

  • Singing
  • Singing has a remarkable effect on the vagus nerve, a key component of the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for promoting relaxation and restorative processes in the body. When we sing, the controlled breath patterns, vocal vibrations, and rhythmic patterns stimulate the vagus nerve, leading to a cascade of beneficial effects. Activation of the vagus nerve helps decrease stress hormones, lowers heart rate, and enhances digestion by promoting optimal gut motility and blood flow. This relaxed state induced by singing contributes to improved gut health, reducing the risk of digestive issues and fostering a more balanced and harmonious mind-gut connection.

  • Castor oil packs
  • Castor oil packs have been used for centuries as a natural remedy to support digestive health. When applied topically over the abdomen, the oil penetrates the skin and interacts with underlying tissues, promoting various beneficial effects. Castor oil packs are believed to stimulate blood circulation and lymphatic flow in the digestive organs, aiding in detoxification and reducing inflammation. The packs can also help relax the smooth muscles of the intestines, relieving spasms and promoting healthy bowel movements. Additionally, castor oil has antimicrobial properties that may help combat harmful bacteria in the gut. 

  • ION Gut Health supplement 
  • ION Gut Health is a dietary supplement formulated by Dr. Zach Bush, MD designed to support gut health and overall well-being. It is formulated with a blend of natural ingredients, including ancient soil extracts, amino acids, and mineral compounds. The product aims to promote a healthy gut microbiome by nourishing and replenishing beneficial bacteria. It also contains compounds that support the integrity of the gut lining, reducing the risk of leaky gut syndrome. By providing a diverse array of nutrients and microbial support, ION Gut Health aims to optimize digestion, enhance nutrient absorption, and support a balanced immune response.

  • Hydration 
  • Hydration plays a significant role in maintaining optimal gut health. A well-hydrated body supports the digestive process by aiding in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Sufficient water intake helps prevent constipation by softening the stool and promoting regular bowel movements. It also helps maintain the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, ensuring proper barrier function and reducing the risk of gut inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Additionally, hydration supports the transport of waste products out of the body, aiding in detoxification. To promote a healthy gut, it is crucial to stay adequately hydrated by consuming an adequate amount of water throughout the day. A general guideline for water intake is half your body weight in ounces. 

    Dealing with gut issues can be stressful. If you are struggling with gut health, or any other health concerns, please schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Hannah. During this call, you will have an opportunity to briefly discuss your health concerns and explore potential treatment options. While the time is limited, it allows you to gain a sense of Dr. Hannah’s approach, determine if naturopathic medicine aligns with your needs, and decide whether to pursue further consultations or treatment. It's a valuable chance to connect with a professional and make an informed decision about your health journey.

    Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical guidance. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional or your medical supervisor before starting any new supplement, making changes to your existing treatment plan, or addressing any health concerns. Each individual's health situation is unique, and only a healthcare professional can provide personalized recommendations based on a comprehensive assessment of your specific needs. 

    About: Dr. Hannah Lollar, ND received her B.S. in Biology from San Diego State University and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. She has also received advanced training in Cranial Sacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Applied Kinesiology, Regenerative Injection Techniques, Homeopathy, Flower Essences, and Advanced IV Therapy. Areas of interest include women’s health, integrative dermatology, stress management, gastrointestinal disorders, endocrine disorders and anti-aging medicine.

    Work with Hannah here. 


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