• Martha Lewis

The Gut-Brain Connection and your Sleep



Do you know that the gut and the brain are connected? If one isn't healthy, then the other isn’t either!


How the brain and the gut are connected

Your digestive system has its own nervous system: the enteric nervous system. The Vagus nerve connects the brain and the enteric nervous system. Your brain is in charge of your gut function. It controls motility (movement of food through the digestive tract), releases enzymes to digest food, and regulates blood flow with nutrients that support your gut.

If the brain isn’t healthy, then the Vagus nerve becomes impaired and digestion slows down. When food doesn’t move quickly enough through the digestive tract, it can ferment and lead to yeast and bacterial overgrowth in the gut.

The Vagus nerve can also stop activating the release of stomach acid. Since stomach acid is necessary for protein digestion, if you have a hard time digesting meats and eggs, you probably have low stomach acid.


This connection is why one of the signs of brain dysfunction is poor digestion. If you have poor memory or difficulty learning new things, you may also have problems with digestion, bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation.


Poor digestion and pathogens in the gut are going to sabotage sleep.


How the gut affects the brain

The gut affects the brain, too. When the gut wall is damaged, undigested food particles and pathogens leak through the gut wall into the bloodstream, causing lots of inflammation. This inflammation gets into the brain, too.

If you have cloudy or foggy thinking, your brain is inflamed. Brain fog happens because inflammation slows the communication of one neuron to another. Sleep is going to be impacted when your brain is inflamed, too.

Some people with leaky gut don't have any digestive symptoms, especially if they’re eating a non-inflammatory diet. But if you have brain fog, insomnia, depression or autoimmunity, you most likely have a leaky gut.

How mental stress damages the gut

The fact that stress in the mind damages the gut is more proof that the gut and brain are connected.


When you’re stressed and in the fight or flight stress response, your digestion stops because your body is prioritizing survival over digesting food. When the emptying of the stomach is delayed, it leads to stomach ache, indigestion, heartburn, and nausea. When your digestion slows down, it causes increased motor function in your large intestine which leads to urgency to go to the bathroom and diarrhea.


There was a study of 600 people who had the stomach flu caused by the bacterium Campylobacter. The researchers found that the patient’s ability to handle stress before the infection made a difference in whether they went on to develop IBS. Those with higher levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and negative beliefs about their illness at the time of infection were at a greater risk to develop IBS.


Stress can affect health through its impact on gut bacteria, according to a recent study Inflammation from stress encourages the growth of pathogenic bacteria. For example, stress hormones can elevate certain bacterial levels 10,000-fold and intensify their infectiousness in 14 hours. These pathogenic bacteria also crowd out the good bacteria that are supposed to make our neurotransmitters and protect us against pathogens.


Stress also increases gut barrier permeability causing leaky gut. As evidence, a study found that “most hostile couples in troubled marriages had greater gut permeability than their less hostile counterparts.”


It also turns out that glutamine, an energy source for intestinal cells, is taken away when stressed.

To sleep well, your gut and your brain need to be healthy. We do functional lab testing to find out what’s happening in your gut and brain that’s keeping you from sleeping normally. Then we give you a simple plan to fix it so you start sleeping better as soon as possible.

My client Rachel just emailed me, “I'm sleeping very well right now...and am loving it!”

This is possible for you, too! Book a call to find out more and get started.


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