The connection between gut and brain: How emotions influence our digestion

Die Verbindung zwischen Darm und Gehirn: Wie Emotionen unsere Verdauung beeinflussen

The connection between the gut and the brain is a fascinating and complex topic that has increasingly become the focus of medical research in recent years. It turns out that our emotions and mental state can have a significant impact on our digestion. In this article, we'll take a closer look at how this connection works and the impact it can have on our health.

The language of the gut: emotions and digestion
Have you ever noticed that you feel a stomach ache or nausea before an important event, like a presentation or a job interview? Or maybe you've heard people talk about "butterflies in your stomach" when you're excited? These colloquial expressions actually have a scientific basis.

The gut is sensitive to our emotional states. This is because the gastrointestinal tract and the brain are connected via a sophisticated network of nerve cells and hormones. This connection allows the brain to directly influence the stomach and gut and vice versa.

The brain's influence on the gut
An interesting example of the interaction between the brain and gut is the idea of eating. The mere thought of food can stimulate the release of gastric juice before the food even reaches the stomach. This connection works in both directions. A stressed or anxious gut can send signals to the brain, just as a stressed brain can send signals to the gut. As a result, the state of one organ can influence the other.

The gut as a mirror of our emotions
This connection is particularly evident in people suffering from functional gastrointestinal disorders where no obvious physical cause for their symptoms can be found. Psychological factors play a decisive role here. Stress, anxiety and depression can affect the movement and contractions of the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to pain and other intestinal complaints.

In addition, studies have shown that people with functional gastrointestinal disorders often perceive pain more intensely because their brains are more sensitive to pain signals from the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to the pain being perceived as even more distressing.

Therapeutic approaches to improve the gut-brain connection
The findings on the close connection between the gut and brain have important implications for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. In many cases, approaches aimed at reducing stress or treating anxiety and depression can lead to significant improvement in bowel symptoms. This does not mean that the symptoms are imaginary, but that psychosocial factors play an important role.

To make the most of the gut-brain connection, it is important to take holistic approaches that address both physical and emotional health. This can include psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, a balanced diet and regular exercise.

The gut-brain connection is an exciting area of research that is expanding our understanding of health and well-being. Emotions and thoughts can actually affect our digestion, and understanding these connections opens up new possibilities for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. It is important to recognize that the gut-brain interaction is real and that it can affect our health in many ways. Therefore, it is advisable to not only look for physical causes of gut problems, but also to consider the role of stress and emotions.


  • Mayer EA. Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut-brain communication. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Jul 13;12(8):453-66. doi: 10.1038/nrn3071. PMID: 21750565; PMCID: PMC3845678.
  • Drossman DA, McKee DC, Sandler RS, Mitchell CM, Cramer EM, Lowman BC, Burger AL. Psychosocial factors in the irritable bowel syndrome. A multivariate study of patients and nonpatients with irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology. 1988 Sep;95(3):701-8. doi: 10.1016/s0016-5085(88)80017-9. PMID: 3396817.
  • Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, Jiang Z, Stains J, Ebrat B, Guyonnet D, Legrain-Raspaud S, Trotin B, Naliboff B, Mayer EA. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013 Jun;144(7):1394-401, 1401.e1-4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. Epub 2013 Mar 6. PMID: 23474283; PMCID: PMC3839572.
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1 comment

Eye-opening read on the gut-brain connection! It’s remarkable to comprehend how our mental state can significantly impact our digestive system and vice versa.


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