The Brain Gut Connection

The two illnesses that I suffer from the most are IBS and chronic migraines.  There are some illnesses that are comorbid, they go together, migraines and IBS is an example.  A doctor once clued me into something called ‘The Brain Gut Connection’  He said that the same neuroreceptors, opiod receptors, are found in your brain and stomach.  To simplify this think about how caffeine affects the stomach.  it makes the stomach jittery as well as the brain.  Or think about how when you are anxious, you feel butterflies in your stomach.

Before IBS started controlling my life, I would only have an attack when I was really tired or really anxious.  I loved to travel, but travelling made me nervous which always made travelling fun.  Somehow I still enjoyed it.  Between the bathroom breaks, bracing myself for the half hour to an hour or taxiing and taking off and running frantically from airport bathrooms to the plane before the gate closed was enjoyable.  It really isn’t a wonder I’d always lose something when travelling.

Your stomach is like your second brain.  Scientists refer to it as your entric nervous system (ENS) The ENS is comprised of two thin layers of more than 100 million cells that line your esophogus to rectum.  This affects not just digestion but mood and even cognition.  Thus making it more apparent why IBS and migraines would travel together.

These cells do not allow us to do conscious processing like balance a checkbook or math homework, but it does communicate with our brain.  It’s main function is to control digestion.

People with IBS are known for having mood shifts.  For the longest time, doctors believed that mood was causing IBS.  If you were anxious, you’d need to use the bathroom, but the relationship goes both ways.  People with IBS can be anxious because of a problem with the ENS.  This could explain why a higher amount of people with IBS have anxiety.  I am on an anti-depressant to control my stomach symptoms. It helps some. The dose is much lower than it would be if it were controlling mood.  This same med is used for migraines.

As doctors learn more about the ENS connection to the brain, the more they find treatments for IBS such as antidepressants, hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). CBT can help improve the communication between the brain and ENS.

More research needs to be done to understand the relationship between IBS and cognition bryyrt. I should see if I can somehow connect with a study to show them.  I can definitely tell that’s true.

Here is a link to the connection from John Hopkins


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