We all know that good gut health is key to longevity. Dietary factors such as refined carbohydrates, dairy, caffeine and certain medications may act as triggers.  However, did you know that there is a definite emotional component to gut health which needs to be recognized as part of any treatment program?

Your mood and gut health

Dr.Ela Manga is a qualified GP and integrative practitioner. She shares that there is a good reason we refer to the gut as the second brain. And that stress has a major impact.

“The vagus nerve richly innervates the entire gastrointestinal system. We should be constantly swinging from the sympathetic ‘fight – flight’ mode. To the parasympathetic ‘rest angut healthd digest’ mode.”

  • When we experience a stress response, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the system
  • Blood then moves away from the digestive system towards the muscles and vital organs
  • When the body relaxes, the rest and digest mode kicks in
  • Blood returns to the digestive system and the vagus nerve activates
  • As a result, digestive juices flow and the peristalsis in the bowel normalize

She continues: “The body can manage small bouts of the stress response. But when we experience chronic stress and anxiety, there is chronic disruption in blood flow. This results in the secretion of digestive juices into the digestive tract. This eventually sets up a chain reaction to events:

  • inflammation
  • leaky gut
  • bloating
  • cramping

Mood Disorders and the Gut as a Second Brain

Manga continues: “Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay messages across nerve fibers, regulating their function. These include:

  • serotonin
  • dopamine
  • GABA
  • adrenaline


“So it makes sense that many of these receptors are found in the brain. However, interestingly the bowel also has a rich supply of receptors.”

She elaborates: “A hundred million neuro-receptors line the gut, about the same number that are found in the brain. Therefore, nearly every chemical that controls the brain can be found in the gut. It is literally the second brain.”

“As a result, mood disorders are caused by a drop of levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. will impact the functioning of the bowel because of the number of receptors that are found in cells of the bowel.”

You also require healthy digestion for optimum brain function

Manga shares that: “New research is also coming to light regarding the connection between good bacteria and mood. If the balance of good bacteria in the gut is disrupted for any reason it will have an effect on mood. As well as on stress and brain function.”

Part of the function of good bacteria is:

  • to act as an anti-inflammatory,
  • boost the immune system
  • maintain the integrity of lining of the bowel

Researchers have also shown that mood disorders can be controlled from the ‘bottom up’. They did this by using two specific strains of probiotic bacteria – lactobacillus and bifidobactium.”

Who is Dr. Ela Manga?

Dr Ela Manga is a medical doctor, author and speaker.  She lives in the vibrant African city of Johannesburg.

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Guest Writer

This post has been curated by a Longevity Live editor for the website.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.