You may have heard the term the ‘gut-brain connection’ or the ‘gut-brain axis’.

This is a field that is really starting to take off and more studies are being done on the communication and association between the brain and the gut. 

The thing is it amazes me that it’s taken so long for medicine and science to catch onto this.  Naturopaths have known for ages that, as Hippocrates stated, ‘all disease begins in the gut’ and up until 300 years ago it was taken for granted that the gut and brain were linked, even by doctors. 

In fact, way back in 1765, it was believed that the nervous system, via ‘nervous sympathy’ connected the gut to the mind. The stomach was known as the ‘abdominal brain’ and it was recognised for having influence over the ‘head brain’. 

In the 1800’s a London-based doctor called John Abernethy, decided that all body and mind conditions were as a result of ‘gastric derangement’. He was interested in knowing why a ‘ blow to the stomach’ could disorder the mind or, conversely, why emotional conditions such as excessive worrying reduced appetite’. Medical doctors at the time accepted that the gut had an effect on the mind.

Abernethy proclaimed that a diet of simple, natural foods instead of the refined, unnatural and adulterated foods (which were becoming common in the industrial age) would prevent symptoms of low spirits, restlessness, sleep problems and fatigue (1).  Sound familiar?  Why have we not learned? 

Unfortunately medicine then underwent big changes and started to divide into specialist areas and as a result the body was separated too. The stomach and gut were treated as a separate entity as was the mind and other parts of the body.  It is only recently that the mind and body have started to be seen as associated again (the link between soul and energy is still a way off sadly). 

We have known for a while, scientifically, that the mind and gut speak to each other via a very large nerve called the vagus nerve that runs between our brain and our gut. Back in 2018, scientists discovered a whole load of new nerve pathways that use gut cells to rapidly communicate with a specific part of the brain. There are also many studies going on now investigating the link between gut dysfunction and obesity, eating disorders, mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, ADHD and autism 

Even more exciting are the studies of the microbiome – the bacteria that live in us and on us. Most of the studies have centred on the gut microbiome as it is becoming clear that when the gut microbiome isn’t balanced then our appetite, weight, mood, immunity, skin and a whole lot more such as the manufacturing of specific vitamins that are key to health are affected.

It is also now accepted that when the gut is inflamed then so can the brain, causing depression and other mental health conditions. 

The gut drives our emotional and psychological wellbeing and at a time when mental health issues are skyrocketing (10% of the world’s population are thought to have a diagnosed mental health condition) (2) , it is no coincidence that gut disorders are also growing in prevalence (40% – that equates to 4 out of 10 people) (3) and we are eating the most ultra processed crap we have ever eaten and we are killing our gut bacteria with medications, chemicals and foods.

In one study 94% of people with IBS had a mental health disorder (and about 50% had a pain or fatigue based health condition such as Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia) (4). 

This is why I have decided that I am going to focus on this subject and try and disseminate the science into how that can help us in real, practical ways. 

Look after your gut, eat well, feed it and the good bugs that live there, with good food and nutrients and you will feed your brain and mind too. You will become more resilient to stress and you are much more likely to make self- care, exercise and mindset practices a priority because you will have the energy and clarity to do that. 

I cannot wait to share with you everything I learn on this journey and if you need a naturopath who understands how the gut and mind work together, a nutritionist who knows what food and nutrients are required, a coach who knows how to help with mindset then please call me because I would love to help you heal your gut to heal your mind. 

Email me at sarahb@sarahbrenchleynaturopathy.com and book a free discovery call to discuss how I can help you, join my Facebook Group – Women’s WellBeing Circle (if you haven’t done so already) or come and join my membership the WellBeing Club.