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The gut-brain connection links our digestive system with our nervous system, influencing both physical and mental health. This vital axis impacts digestion, metabolism, immune function, mental health, and cognition. Disruptions can lead to conditions ranging from mental health disorders to digestive issues and hormonal imbalances.

The Main Factors in Gut Health

Several lifestyle factors significantly affect the connection between your gut and your mind:


  • Diet: A balanced, whole-foods diet supports a healthy gut microbiome and, in turn, a healthier mind.


  • Stress: High stress levels can disrupt gut function and microbial balance leading to various challenges that your body then faces.


  • Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for gut health and overall well-being. The less sleep you get the worse your body, including your gut, functions.


  • Exercise: Regular physical activity promotes a diverse gut microbiota.

The Gut Microbiome Explained

Before we can offer solutions, it's best to understand how your gut functions. We can start by learning about the gut microbiome!


Comprising bacteria, fungi, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in digestion, metabolism, immune function, and mental health. It produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, impacting mood and behavior. While it might seem crazy that these microbiome exist within you, it's a symbiotic relationship; you need them to have a healthy gut and a healthy mind.


An important aspect of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome is the use of probiotics. Probiotics are live good bacteria that, when consumed, colonize in your body to fight bad bacteria, improve digestive health, boost your immune system, and keep you pooping healthy! They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, although for the most beneficial amount of culture forming units you can take a probiotic supplement. Make sure to switch your probiotic strains every 3-6 months for maximum benefits. 

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Exploring the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

Next let's focus on your second brain!


The Enteric Nervous System (or ENS for short), embedded in the gut lining, is part of the autonomic nervous system and interacts with the brain via the vagus nerve. It's responsible for food breakdown, digestive secretions, blood flow, and gut motility (the rate and ease at which food moves through the digestive system). Neurotransmitters produced in the gut, like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, influence mood and behavior. An impressive 95% of serotonin is produced by the gut microbiome, highlighting its significance in mental health.

Stress and its Impact

Now that we know about the inner workings of the gut, let's see how stress can have an impact it's function.


Stress impacts gut motility, permeability (the ability to absorb important nutrients through cells into the body), and microbial diversity (the amount of different types of microbiota). It activates the HPA axis, releasing cortisol and adrenaline, which can disrupt the gut microbiome and exacerbate mental health issues. Stress and emotions are often felt in the gut, leading to "gut feelings."


If you've ever felt like you've had a "pit" in your stomach then you too have suffered from the effects of stress in the gut. Read more below on how the gut influences the mind:

Healthy and Fun Family Activities

To keep your kids active this summer, try Health 1st's very own Summer Bingo!


The rules are simple:

  • Get your bingo card from the Health 1st front desk.

  • Complete activities and mark them on the card.

  • Bring your finished card to win big prizes!

You'll have all summer to do the activities so there's no rush! Just make sure to have as much fun as possible!

Our Tips for Improving Gut Health & Mental Well-being

While it might seem obvious, our tips below can help set you on the path to better gut health and better mental well-being.


  • Mindful Eating: Slow down, chew thoroughly, and eat while seated. This promotes a more efficient digestion process.


  • Balanced Diet: Incorporate diverse and whole foods. Avoid inflammatory foods like processed sugars and seed oils. Fiber helps build good bacteria and affects gut function in many ways, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and stool quality.


  • Hydration: Start your day with warm water or lemon water to kickstart your metabolism. Water itself supports bowel movements and acts as a lubricant for the gut.


  • Stress Management: Managing your stress will have an absolute positive reaction in your body. Engage in calming activities like yoga, walking, and mindfulness meditation.


  • Physical Activity: By engaging in physical activity and exercise, you'll be promoting your microbiota diversity and increasing your gut motility, reducing inflammation, and maintaining your metabolism.


  • Breathing Exercises: It's easy to fall out of these patterns by the hum-drum of everyday life. Center your mind by trying coherence breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or the 4-7-8 technique.

By understanding and nurturing the gut-brain connection, you can enhance both your physical and mental health. Implement these strategies to create a balanced and resilient gut microbiome, leading to a happier, healthier you!


A few months ago we had Functional Nutritionist Chelsea Kaz-Goethel give a presentation on the Gut-Mind Connection. If you want to learn more you can download the workshop PowerPoint below!

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