Often referred to as the second brain, your gut or digestive tract is a complex system that plays a role in your emotional well-being. Having a healthy gut is essential to achieving and maintaining a sound psychological state. But when these interconnected systems are disrupted due to diseases such as GERD, what options are there to restore balance once again? The following will explain the gut-brain connection and what you can do to achieve a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
The Second Brain
The enteric nervous system, containing 100 million neurons, runs the length of the alimentary canal from the esophagus down to the anus. According to Scientific American, this system is so complicated that one of the most prominent nerves, the vagus, actually sends messages to the brain and not vice versa. Therefore, a lot of what is happening in our gut is being relayed to our central nervous system and then influencing our emotions, and can result in depression or anxiety.
Another factor connecting mental health to digestive health is the role of neurochemicals, explains the American Psychological Association. Bacteria found in the gut produce 95% of the serotonin in the body, and these serotonin levels directly affect our mental state. In addition to our emotions, these hundreds of neurochemicals produced in the digestive tract manage other mental functions such as learning and memory.
As your gut health can affect your mental state, inversely your emotional state has an impact on what is happening in your digestive tract. This can explain why people who are very anxious more commonly suffer from acid reflux.
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a disease affecting 1 in 5 Americans and can negatively impact the quality of life for its sufferers. While overproduction of stomach acid can be the cause, it can be worsened by eating certain foods. It is often a result of a mechanical problem. Between your esophagus and your stomach is a muscular valve, the lower esophageal sphincter. When this muscle is weak and does not remain closed or inappropriately opens, stomach acid may flow back up into the esophagus explains the American Gastroenterological Association. This can result in the following symptoms:
- Burning pain in the chest after eating, while lying down or stooping over
- Regurgitation of stomach contents into the mouth with a bitter taste
- Feeling that food is stuck in the throat instead of going down
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Chronic cough or asthma
Relief in Sight
Diet has been proven to play a significant role in maintaining the balance of gut-brain health. Psycom reports in “The Gut Brain Connection” that a fine balance between the good and bad bacteria populating the gut microbiome, in favor of beneficial bacteria is essential to overall health. Probiotic and Prebiotic foods are those foods that aid in repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria. Probiotic foods directly replenish the microbial flora, whereas prebiotic foods contain indigestible fiber which ferments in the gut and are consumed by probiotic bacteria. Some examples of these foods are as follows:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
If diet and medication alone are unable to control gut dysbiosis and GERD, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment. A revolutionary new treatment option, which is minimally invasive, was approved for the treatment of GERD in March 2012. LINX is a flexible ring of magnets the size of a quarter which is placed around the esophagus allowing for food and liquid to go down without moving up again. 99% of patients report elimination of regurgitation and a significant improvement in their quality of life.
Dr. Ranjit Singh, a surgeon at Hudson Physicians, is skilled in this procedure and is taking appointments for personal consultations. For more information about the LINX Reflux Management System, click here.