The brain and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are intimately connected.
The GI tract is sensitive to emotion and intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. Your gut can operate on its own and communicates back and forth with your brain through chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters that send messages. There is a strong relationship between having mental health problems and having GI symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea.
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is the most important thing you can do to keep your brain/GI connection healthy.
Having fewer than three bowel movements in a week may mean you are experiencing constipation. The stool can be hard and dry and sometimes painful to pass. Almost everyone will experience constipation at one time or another and in most cases it lasts a short time and is not serious. There are many things that you can do to prevent constipation including
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains high in fiber
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting enough exercise
- Taking time to have a bowel movement when you need to
- Asking your doctor if medicines you take may cause constipation
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. IBS is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. As many as one in five Americans have symptoms of IBS. The cause of IBS isn’t well understood but stress, large meals, certain foods, and alcohol may trigger symptoms in people with this disorder.
Peppermint oil capsules and probiotics may be helpful in reducing several common symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (e.g., bacteria) that are either the same as or similar to microorganisms found naturally in the human body and may be beneficial to health. If you picture the human body as a “host” for bacteria and other microorganisms, you might have a better understanding of probiotics. The body, especially the lower gastrointestinal tract (the gut), contains a complex and diverse community of bacteria. Although we tend to think of bacteria as harmful “germs,” many bacteria actually help the body function properly.
There is an increased focus on probiotics for reducing digestive problems like indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, reflux, or gas and bloating. Maintaining the proper balance of bacteria by taking probiotics can help reduce or eliminate these troubling digestive symptoms. The trillions of microorganisms in your gut help you digest, regulate your bowels and support your immune system.
Our gut bacteria is connected to how our brain works — specifically to how we react emotionally to specific stimuli. In the first study of its kind, 45 healthy women took no product, a non-fermented dairy product (placebo), or a probiotic dairy product. Over four weeks they were randomly shown pictures of negative emotional faces while their brain activity was monitored. Compared to the other groups, women receiving probiotics showed significantly less emotional arousal during the experiment. Another small study showed a probiotic formula containing Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum reduced psychological distress in test subjects.
Please remember this information is intended for educational purposes only and should not substitute medical advice from a healthcare provider.