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Mental Health & Your Digestive System

You have two brains-your gut and your brain. They work in tandem and influence each other. Intestinal health influences your mental health. Research has shown that certain strains of probiotics have a significant effect on brain chemistry, modulating mood and behavior, regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.

Let’s go back a little bit and talk about vital brain functions…

The hypothalamus, located at the base of the cerebrum, controls vital functions such as the body’s fluids, the regulation of fat and carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar levels, and body temperature. It also controls rhythmic cycles, activity and rest, appetite and digestion, sexual desire, and reproductive functions. It coordinates our nervous system such as sleep, being awake, alert, and the reactions of pain and pleasure. Without this miracle gland, we could not be human. We need it to function well to operate our nervous and endocrine systems. It is also the body’s “emotional” brain. So how does the hypothalamus receive its information?

The second brain is the enteric nervous system which consists of sheaths of some 100 million neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube our digestive system. This firepower aids in the elaborate daily grind of digestion, which includes breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling waste. And this is why what you eat, and HOW you eat as well as absorb your food is so crucial to the digestive process. What you choose affects your brain.


Fun facts!

90 percent of the fibers in our vagus nerve carry information from the gut to the brain (not the other way around)!

Our emotions are influenced by are gut (remember, butterflies in the stomach)! 95 percent of serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter is made in the gut and not the brain!


Then, what is the impact of enzymes on the brain?

We suffer neurological disorders such as fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s if the organs of the nervous system are inflamed; or affected by disease or injury. Enzyme action helps the nerves communicate with each other. Understanding your body’s biochemical type and eating according to this type will also enhance your nervous system.

Enzymes reduce the load on digestion allowing your second brain (your gut) to stay in a parasympathetic (calm) state. This can reduce anxiety, nervousness, and depression.

An enzyme program of a proteolytic enzyme (to help with circulation, immune, protein breakdown, and detoxification), a digestive enzyme, and a probiotic removes stress off the digestive system so that both the gut and brain stay calm. Studies have shown that enzymes, coupled with a healthy diet of proteins and plants, can help in reducing physiological anxiety and depression.


Written by Jennifer Schwartz-Doctorovich, MS, LPC-Associate, FNTP, CFSP

Supervised by Tamara D. Allen Bush, LPC-S


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