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the gut-brain connection

19th March 2018 by Jess

When it comes to decision-making, we’ve all heard the term ‘go with your gut’, or ‘your gut instinct'. Is there any scientific truth in this expression? Is your gut somehow connected with your brain?

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Scientific research has found that the gut (the billions of microbes, also known as bacteria strains, that make up our gut's ecosystem) and the brain communicate with each other. Our body is one inter-connected vehicle and we are only just scratching the surface of how powerful the link is between our gut and brain.

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the happy hormone

One of the things we also know about the gut-brain connection is that around 80% of the serotonin in our body (the neurotransmitter in our brain that leads us to feel happy, calm and content) is made in the gut. Which means, if gut health is compromised, serotonin production may also very likely be altered, which will directly impact how we experience life and respond to different situations.

Ever notice how some people have this calm, happy aura about them which doesn’t change when life throws up something stressful, whereas others are wired and sprung like a tight coil, and it only takes the smallest of ’stressors’ for their ‘coil' to go? It might be that they have conditioned their nervous system to respond to life that way with years of repeatedly reacting in the same way, or it could be that their altered biochemistry is playing a part in that reaction and their emotional state.

Could something so overlooked as levels of serotonin and gut health be something we should consider if someone isn’t feeling calm, happy or content?

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Our relationship with food is complex and often has a strong emotional component. When we are stressed, for example, we tend not reach for a health-promoting bowl of broccoli and other nutrient dense foods (even though this is what we know we ’should’ do), instead, we might find ourselves more drawn to chocolate, alcohol, or takeaways! When we’re feeling tired and irritable, caffeine and sugary pick-me-ups tend to be the go-to to give us that immediate lift of energy, rather than a nutrient dense slow burner of energy such as a boiled egg or some nut butter and vegetables.

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Often our body communicates in the form of gut symptoms when foods aren’t right for you, so listen up and act accordingly. Pay attention to how your body is feeling. A handy exercise which helps a lot of my nutrition clients in my online practice is to keep a food and symptoms diary for a couple of weeks where you write down what you ate, and you jot down how you feel throughout the day - it can help to build up a picture of different foods and their impact on your day-to-day feelings and it can help to flag up any common denominators that might better serve to be avoided for a trial period of time.

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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to her website at jessntom.com for even more.

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