We talk a lot about Gut health these days buying expensive supplements and probiotics, but In this newsletter I want to share the impact of a simple exercise like Gratitude on Gut health?

Take a moment to pause and reflect on something you’re grateful for. (Your health, your spouse, your children, your pets, your friends, etc.). You just sparked a bunch of mental and physical health benefits! The act of “feeling grateful” can have a profound effect on your well-being. In fact, hundreds of studies have found that gratitude connects to:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced depression and anxiety
  • Improved heart health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Clearer skin
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Increased positivity and happiness
  • Longevity

And it can also have a positive effect on your gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut, and play a starring role in your overall health.

The Gut-Brain Connection

We’ve talked about how improving gut health with probiotics can support mental health. You may have heard about dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins as being contributing factors to feeling happy. Similar to these neurotransmitters, serotonin plays many important roles in the brain’s biochemistry and is intimately involved in facilitating sustained and deep sleep, maintaining healthy mood and self-confidence, even supporting a healthy appetite and social engagement. Additionally, it helps decrease our worries and concerns and is associated with learning and memory.

Researchers estimate that 90% of the body’s production of serotonin is in the digestive tract, not the brain. The lack of support from “friendly bacteria” could be what’s bringing you down. Many studies show that rebalancing your gut microbiome leads to positive changes in your brain chemistry. And that affects how you think and feel.

That’s because your brain and gut are directly connected by the “gut-brain axis” —a special communication system that runs between the two. The vagus nerve is the main messaging pathway of the gut-brain axis. And while recent research has focused on the bottom-up impact (how your gut microbiome affects your brain), the gut-brain axis is a two-way street. All of that makes sense when you think about things like “emotional eating,” “gut feelings,” and “butterflies in your stomach.”

It’s also why we can find it difficult to sit down and eat a nourishing meal when we are stressed, and instead go for simple carbohydrates, such as bread, donuts, pastas, cereals, and so on, which typically increase insulin levels and allow more tryptophan (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) to enter the brain, where the brain cells can then convert it to serotonin. (Healthier choices that help boost serotonin levels naturally might include salmon, poultry, eggs, spinach, nuts, and seeds.)

The truth is that how you think and feel can change the makeup of your microbiome! For example:

So, your gut sends signals to your brain, and your brain sends messages to your gut. And when you’re feeling happy and content – which comes with practicing gratitude and being grateful – your brain lets you know that everything is going to be okay. It sends an “all is well” signal through the vagus nerve to your digestive tract, allowing the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome to thrive, leaving less room for bad (pathogenic) bacteria…all leading to better digestion, absorption, and an overall better-balanced gut landscape.

Getting Healthier with Gratitude

Gratitude is more than a “thank you.” It’s a complex emotion that involves:

  • Recognizing that something good has happened to you
  • Showing appreciation for the gifts you’ve received
  • Connecting with something outside yourself
  • Strengthening bonds between people

Gratitude affects our brains – and our health – more powerfully than other types of positive emotions. And positive emotions send strong signals to our gut microbiome, allowing the most beneficial bacteria to thrive. (It’s not too big a leap to imagine how the opposite is true as well­ —namely that negative emotions can cause extra stress on the body and mind, weaken our body’s immune system and adversely affect our well-being.) No matter what shape your health is in, regularly practicing gratitude can make it better. And we have the scientific studies to back that up:

  • Keeping a daily online gratitude journal for two weeks was shown to help participants achieve fewer headaches, less congestion, and decreased stomach pain (read more).
  • Heart failure patients (with no active symptoms) who kept gratitude journals had lower levels of inflammation and better heart function than patients who didn’t (read more).
  • College students who kept gratitude journals for 10 weeks experienced fewer symptoms (like sore muscles or nausea) than students writing about hassles or keeping daily event logs
  • A study of 607 adults found that practicing gratitude was linked to lower levels of loneliness and stress, and better overall health (read more).

So how to do it?

Saying Grace

It’s pretty straightforward: Thankfulness decreases stress almost instantaneously. And your stress levels directly impact your digestive functions. Mental strain can affect digestion and even the speed at which food moves through your body. This is why many people with extreme, chronic stress—even if they eat plenty of fiber—find themselves suffering from diarrhea or constipation.

Stress can also affect the absorption of nutrients from food. You can eat all the kale and collards you want, but you won’t be reaping the maximum nutritional benefits if your body isn’t properly absorbing them.

On the other hand, feelings of gratitude activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate, increase intestinal and glandular activity, and is responsible for creating equilibrium in the body, (including the secretion of digestive enzymes that help you take advantage of the nutrients of your food).

Perhaps this is why most cultures have a traditional practice of taking a moment for gratitude before eating a meal, either as a prayer of thanks or a simple meditative acknowledgment. There are many psychological benefits of saying grace.

Practicing Gratitude

“What is the relationship between love and gratitude? For an answer to this question, we can use water as a model. A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, represented by H2O. If love and gratitude, like oxygen and hydrogen, were linked together in a ratio of 1 to 2, gratitude would be twice as large as love.”

― Masaru Emoto, Hidden Messages in Water

As we’ve seen in the studies mentioned above, spending just a few minutes on gratitude every day can benefit your mood, your health, and your microbiome.

Then, as you strengthen your gratitude “muscle,” you may find that the feeling sneaks into your mind and heart throughout the course of your day, and this leads to the healthy practice of Mindfulness – a neutral state of active, open attention on the present. (Mindfulness can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.)

Radical Wellness 101 – It’s time to transform your life!

Secure your complimentary session HERE. Limited seats available.

Experience a holistic programme centred around the 5 Pillars of health and well-being.

This radical wellness 101 program delves deep into vital aspects of health and vitality.

Far beyond traditional yoga or meditation, this transformative journey focuses on:

  • Achieving remarkable weight loss goals
  • Personalised strategies to nurture and optimise gut health
  • Boosting energy levels for a vibrant lifestyle
  • Striving for peak performance in all endeavours

Program details:

  • Date: This program runs Sunday mornings over 8 sessions, from Sunday 21 April to Sunday 9 June
  • Time: 8.30am to 10am
  • Venue: 3rd Croydon Scouts Hall,15 Lusher Rd, Croydon 3136
  • Cost:
    • Session entry – $15 per person or $20 for a couple
    • Program bundle – $100 per person or $130 for a couple