The Brain-Gut Connection
We’ve established that there’s a brain-gut connection. Part of this is actually a so-called”second brain”, which is the nervous system that surrounds our gut and coordinates gut function. The reason why there’s so much nervous system here is that what happens in the gut is crucial to the nervous system.
If you’ve had a whole bunch of antibiotics when you were young and they wiped out all the good bacteria living there –which are the probiotics that you hear so much about– then your guts aren’t going to work very well. By definition, you’re now malnourished because your guts aren’t able to properly absorb nutrients. The benefits of probiotics are that they help to repopulate that healthy gut bacteria. We may or may not be able to identify if you are malnourished with lab testing, but that’s because our lab testing is not very sophisticated in comparison to what actually goes on in our body. But if your guts aren’t working, you’re malnourished.
Stress Becomes Fight or Flight
Once you’re malnourished, your tissues start to break down. The most sensitive tissues in our body are in the brain. So there can be a problem that starts in the gut and then goes up to the brain. It can work the other way around, too, where it starts in the brain, where you get stressed and your nervous system gets locked into fight or flight. When we get locked into fight or flight — fight, flight, or freeze, actually — the muscular nervous system gets fired up, but the GI tract nervous system is suppressed. If you’re going to run or fight for your life, whatever is in your stomach won’t be much help, so that system just gets shut down.
Nowadays, we live surrounded by constant stress. It’s not just the five minutes we ran from the bear three months ago, it’s every day, all the time. The alarm goes off and you’re hitting the ground running. That kind of stress means our digestion is suppressed and now we’re malnourished because of our brain. This connection between the gut and the brain is a loop, and it can be interfered with on either end or at several connections between. Because of this loop, if we’ve got a gut problem, we’re gonna have a brain problem. If we’ve got a brain problem, we’re going to have a gut problem. They go together.