Dr. Clinton Sexton
Part #5 Gut-Brain Connection
Welcome to Part 5 of the Women’s Digestion Solutions health series.
This is Part 5 of the 5-part series and I will discuss the importance of the nervous system and nerve chemicals (neurotransmitters) in relation to gut health. In Part 1 we covered Diet, Part 2 Nutrition, Part 3 Hormones, Part 4 Probiotics now we will go over the importance of neurological function and gut health.
What does your brain have to do with your digestive health? Your brain and digestive tract may not seem related, but they have several things in common and they “talk” to each other constantly. Poor gut function and poor brain function often go together. By improving gut health, you enhance brain health and vice versa. These two regions have a significant impact on one another. Your gut also has a second brain to help regulate its functions; we call it the enteric nervous system. The fact that your gut gets to have its own “brain” provide some sense of how complex your digestive tract really is!
Direct Connection: Vagus Nerve
There is a nerve that runs from your brain, down to your digestive tract; it is called the vagus nerve. The word vagus in this sense means “wandering” because this nerve goes to many different organs including your digestive tract. It sends “instructions” to your digestive tract and these instructions help control digestive function. It also “receives” information from your digestive tract and sends it to your brain. Your vagus nerve is like a two-way street from your brain to your gut; sending formation in both directions. Increased stress or inflammation can have a negative impact on vagus nerve function.
Digestive Tract Nervous System
Your digestive tract is the only system in your body that gets to have its very own brain. We call this second brain the enteric nervous system. This system controls digestive functions. Most people do not recognize the importance of nerves and the role they play in controlling the digestive tract. To give you an idea of how important nerves are, NOTHING will happen in your digestive tract without nerves. You can’t chew, you can’t swallow, you can’t digest food, you can’t release digestive acid or enzymes, you can’t propel food from your stomach to your intestines and you can’t poop without proper nerve function!
If your gut’s nervous system is compromised you will be more susceptible to heartburn / GERD, sluggish digestion, malabsorption, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and pain…I think you get the idea.
When you have digestion problems, your enteric nervous is having problems and when your enteric nervous system is having problems your gut has problems.
Many things can influence the enteric nervous system including food sensitivities, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, stress, hormone imbalances and poor gut flora balance. It can be difficult to know how many of these problems you may be suffering from and this is where the guidance of a functional medicine doctor can be helpful.
Take a few moments and “digest” what you have just read.
No one should live with chronic digestion problems. There are solutions to your problem, maybe I can help.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Dr. Clint Sexton
If you would like more information about women’s digestion, functional medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwelness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.