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Your BRAIN and your GUT are linked!!

Your digestive system has more nerves than other systems of the body.  This means that your gut will constantly be sending signals to your mind!   Also, your MIND constantly sends signals to your GUT.  Some people say your GUT is your “second brain”.   This is why some people get “nervous tummy” or “upset stomach” when stressed or have to present something in front of an audience.

This BRAIN GUT connection is an important thing to understand for anyone with a digestive disease, including IBD.   Even if your IBD is in remission (normal blood tests, normal endoscopy, normal imaging) you can still have some symptoms due to long term inflammation causing damage to the nerves in the gut.

Examples of the types of damage to your gut and thus the symptoms you might have:

  1. impaired motility – long term inflammation of the gut can cause damage to the nerves and muscles that are needed to push food along the intestines.   This may lead to changes in how your intestines move (motility), and cause you to have diarrhea or constipation or both.
    1. sometimes people need to change their diet (eat more fibre, or eat less of certain foods)
    2. sometimes people may need to take medications (to speed up the gut or slow down the gut)
  2. low pain threshold – your gut may be more sensitive to normal sensation such as gas in the intestines, or lots of stool in the intestines, and may send PAIN signals to your brain.
    1. adjusting your diet to reduce the amount of gas and bloating by cutting down on gassy foods or sugary foods (low FODMAP diet) may help
    2. sometimes people need to take medications (anti-spasmodics for example) to control the pain
    3. it is NOT advised to take opiates or chronic pain medications to treat this type of pain (opiates are known to lead to higher chance of death and effects on the brain and other organs)