Emotions & The Gut. What's The Link?

gut health mental health microbiome
emotions and digestion

Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach before a big event? Or experienced a loss of appetite during stress? These aren't just coincidences. They're examples of the fascinating interplay between our emotions and digestive health, a relationship orchestrated through the gut-brain axis. This bidirectional communication network involves neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways, as Mayer (2011) points out. 


Unraveling the Gut-Brain Axis

Imagine a busy highway, with constant traffic between the brain and gut. That's the gut-brain axis. Carabotti et al. (2015) describe this network as a conversation involving the central nervous system (CNS), the enteric nervous system (ENS), and even the trillions of microbes in our gut. The ENS, our gut's own nervous system, plays a star role in this dialogue. Furness (2012) likens it to a 'second brain,' controlling digestion and chatting back and forth with our actual brain.


When Stress and Anxiety Stir the Pot

Stress doesn't just mess with your mind; it shakes up your stomach too. When we're stressed, our body hits the 'fight or flight' button. This response, Mayer (2011) explains, cuts down blood flow to the gut and alters gut motility, leading to indigestion or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Van Oudenhove et al. (2011) show that people with IBS feel more gut pain during stress, linking emotional turmoil to digestive discomfort.


On the Brighter Side: Happiness and Digestion

But it's not all doom and gloom. Happiness can do wonders for your digestive system. When you're happy, your body manages enzyme secretion and nutrient absorption more efficiently (Mayer, 2011). Konturek et al. (2011) found that positive emotions can improve gut motility and ease gastrointestinal troubles. It’s a clear sign that a good laugh might be just as beneficial for your gut as it is for your mood!


Gut Microbiota: The Unsung Heroes

Our gut is a bustling metropolis of microbes, and they're key players in the gut-brain story. A diverse and balanced gut microbiota is linked to better emotional health, Cryan & Dinan (2012) highlight. It's fascinating how probiotics, those friendly bacteria, might help ward off the blues and calm nerves (Steenbergen et al., 2015).


Diet’s Role in the Emotional Digestive Dance

What we eat influences this whole gut-brain-emotion triangle. Foster & McVey Neufeld (2013) remind us that our diet shapes our gut microbiota, which in turn affects our mood and emotional responses. A fiber-rich, nutrient-packed diet isn't just good for our body; it's a tonic for our emotions and digestion too.

 So, there you have it: our emotions and digestion are intricately linked, a dance choreographed by the gut-brain axis. It’s a complex but beautiful interplay that underscores the unity of our physical and emotional well-being. Future research promises even deeper insights, potentially revolutionizing how we approach digestive health and emotional wellness.


  1. Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M.A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

  2. Cryan, J.F., & Dinan, T.G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(10), 701–712.

  3. Foster, J.A., & McVey Neufeld, K.A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(5), 305–312.

  4. Furness, J.B. (2012). The enteric nervous system and neurogastroenterology. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 9(5), 286–294.

  5. Konturek, P.C., Brzozowski, T., & Konturek, S.J. (2011). Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 62(6), 591–599.

  6. Mayer, E.A. (2011). Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut-brain communication. *Nature

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