Reduce Stress by Tapping into Your “Second Brain”

“All disease begins in the gut.” –Hippocrates (a Greek physician)

It’s the gut, not the brain that may be the body’s “true” central intelligence

The gut (digestive tract), our so-called “second brain,” may be the key place where anxiety manifests.  Experience your mood and stress responses improve daily and read on.

If you are fed up with your anxiety and stress levels, you may find some comfort in a fairly new idea.  That is the new scientific understanding that a lot of what happens up in our head (our brain) actually begins with what happens in our gut and digestive tract.  Think of this as your second brain.  You can think of the example of when you get anxious and feel as though you have “butterflies in the stomach”.  That is actually the gut signaling the brain that something is going on.  This happens via the vagus nerve (cranial nerve X) that connects the stomach to the brain.  This nerve carries info to the brain (not the other way around). Some of the gut’s microbes release chemical messengers and communicate through the vagus nerve to the brain. This is also the nerve that gets activated when we meditate or do yoga.  See my post here to learn more. 

The digestive tract, or enteric system as it’s now called by scientists, also contains neurotransmitters and neurons, similar to the brain.  And, it’s estimated that over 90% of our Serotonin is actually produced in the gut.  Not in the brain as one would think.  This is the most interesting fact to me as I carry on with my drug-free lifestyle.  To thrive, I’ve turned my focus onto nourishing and cleaning the gut.  This may translate to better Serotonin production and also a direct pipeline to the brain (the one in our head) to clear out those anxious feelings and be yet another way to stay away from prescription drugs and other deleterious means of improving mental health.

Read my post about supplements and a non-medicated lifestyle here.

“Let food be thy medicine.” –Hippocrates

My go-to supps to help with anxiety:
Magnesium Glycinate-helps relax muscles and the nervous system

Magnesium L-threonate-helps Mg levels in the brain

Vitamin D3Note: the best form of Vitamin D comes free from the sun, so go outdoors for 30-60min a day and be careful how much sunscreen you wear as this can block it.

DHA

Pre/Probiotics

Collagen

B Complex

Multivitamin – this one is great and is available for whatever stage of life you are in. I used the prenatal one too both times I was pregnant.

Food for stress and anxiety relief:

Quinoa, leafy green veggies like spinach and kale, raw almonds, raw walnuts, avocados, Kombucha and any fermented foods that are gut-friendly; Stay away from: processed sugar and wheat, typically both are GMO. For bread, I try to go with sprouted wheat bread or anything homemade from a local bakery that will not add chemicals or crazy ingredients.

NOTE: I try to get much of the above all in one multi-vitamin and then add what my multi doesn’t have.  This is typically collagen, which I get in powder form to add to my AM smoothie, DHA, a pre/probiotic and Magnesium.  These I usually have to buy separately as the best multivitamins may not contain them. This seems like a lot and it is! I try to go with the best quality items (usually from Amazon) and at the most reasonable price. If I can’t afford something one month, I just leave it out. I’ve learned to cut things out of my grocery budget that are not beneficial to me anymore (i.e. processed foods, soda, alcohol). By doing this, I’m able to free up extra money. The benefits of the items above have been remarkable and I cannot stress the importance of each. Being healthy from the inside out, including a healthy gut, will pay off.

Yoga Poses to alleviate anxiety:

Child’s Pose

Forward Fold

Cat/Cow Poses

Yoga Nidra

References that have been helpful to me over the years and in writing this post:

Books

The Second Brain by Michael Gershon, MD, 2003

Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, MD, 2015

A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD, 2016

Own Your Self by Kelly Brogan, MD, 2019

Documentaries The Gut: Our Second Brain, Amazon 2013 Director: Cecile Denjean

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