“I have a gut feeling” and “trust your gut” are phrases we have grown up hearing. They originate from one of the most fascinating systems in our body—the enteric nervous system. Based in the gut, this incredibly sensitive system is located along the digestive organs. It has the largest accumulation of nerve cells in the human body. It monitors and regulates everything from swallowing, digesting and eliminating. Its profound sensitivity sends information along a two-lane highway from the gut to the brain, using the incredible vagus nerve to communicate that information.
Otherwise known as the “wanderer nerve”, this nerve is a long pathway that begins in the brain and travels down the back of the throat to the gut. Among its many abilities, the most important function is to shuttle information from the inner organs (the gut, liver, heart and lungs) to the brain.
When the gut is not functioning properly, or a disruption in homeostasis is detected, information is sent from the enteric nervous system via the vagus nerve. This data can result in mood changes. Emerging studies suggest that digestive conditions such as IBS, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and indigestion trigger cognitive side effects like irritability, anxiety and depression—not the other way around, as it was stated up until recently.
It’s possible that the better we are to our digestive system, our mental health with be enhanced. Incorporating a healthy dose of probiotics from fermented foods and drinks, like water kefir, may help improve symptoms like bloating and constipation. When these symptoms are alleviated, the enteric nervous system sends positive information to the brain, which might impact the quality of mental health. These studies are still emerging, but the fascinating work being done on this subject could revolutionize how mental health is treated in the future.
Check out our recipe for a soothing blueberry lemon lavender water kefir soda to further relax your nervous system.