Could brain-gut issues be behind your difficulty focusing, bad moods, and digestive issues? You may have noticed a bunch of new studies pointing to the brain-gut connection and its important role in health. Brain-gut balance could help support:

Sounds pretty great, right? The better news is there are simple ways to strengthen the muscles, nerve connections, and lining of your brain-gut axis to support your state of mind. Here are five things you can do to strengthen that connection:

1. Feed your brain minerals.

Minerals act as the “spark plugs” that kick-start the processes that run your brain and body. They also directly nourish your gut lining. If you're short of often-forgotten trace minerals like zinc, selenium, manganese, and iodine, your brain and gut may be struggling to stay in balance.

Absorbing a broad-spectrum of minerals on a daily basis is a great way to support cognitive function and brain health and keep brain-fog, difficulty focusing, and unexplained cravings at bay.

Tip: Choose minerals chelated (or bonded) with amino acids for higher absorption. Binding (chelating) minerals to amino acids helps transport them through the digestive lining into your bloodstream for maximum uptake.

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2. Digest your micronutrients fully (you are what you absorb!).

Too often, we wait until we have a stomachache or constipation to attend to our digestive health, but if your motility is slow, you may not be absorbing of the enough minerals, vitamins, and amino acids (micronutrients) from your food that keep your brain and gut running.

Digestive enzymes help break your food down into a form that your body can use, so supplementing with active plant enzymes can help, but choosing foods that your body digests well is key.

Tip: Choose foods that give you energy. Figuring out which foods work well for your system can be a process of elimination and reintroduction, but a good of rule of thumb to get started is to avoid foods that make you tired after you eat.

This will instinctively steer you toward nutrient-rich foods that stimulate your digestive enzymes and stomach acid for maximum nutrient absorption.

3. Nourish your gut lining.

Your digestive lining is key for protecting your body. It stops toxins leaking through the gut wall and also creates an ecosystem in which probiotics — the healthy bacteria — can thrive.

Following the previous tip to eat foods you digest well (and avoiding those you don’t!) will help, but you can further support your gut lining by nourishing and healing it with prebiotics and amino acids like L-Glutamine.

Tip: Choose probiotics with prebiotics. Think of prebiotic fibers as the soil that probiotics grow in. Throw prebiotic foods like chicory and artichoke into your next salad, and always choose probiotic supplements that include prebiotics to avoid relying on supplements alone.

4. Activate your vagus nerve.

The digestive system has its own nervous system (the enteric nervous system) that connects with the brain via the vagus nerve. Because the brain sends messages via the vagus nerve to the gut and other organs, it's a key part of a strong mind-body connection. (A weak vagal tone has been associated with a slow metabolism and a weaker brain-gut connection.)

Because the vagus nerve runs down the back of your throat, strongly stimulating the throat can help activate the nerves and help increase vagal tone.

Tip: Gargle and sing! In his book, Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, Dr. Datis Kharrazian recommends that people gargle with water three times a day, loudly and vibrantly, and maybe even until the eyes tear up. Singing heartily has a similar mechanism, so now you have an excuse for singing loudly in the shower!

5. Listen to your gut. (It’s called your second brain for a reason.)

Knowing that your brain and gut are sending powerful nerve signals back and forth really drives home why we feel so many of our emotions in the chest and stomach.

Research points to the gut’s nervous system as a big indicator of our emotional state, so tuning in to what it’s saying to you is a great way to tap your intuition and make decisions faster.

Tip: When making decisions, listen to physical sensations first. Often when faced with an issue, we mentally focus on the pros and cons and sometimes ignore the fact that we have butterflies or anxious feelings trying to communicate with us.

Next time you’re faced with a challenge or decision, try listening to your gut first. What is it trying to tell you? Using your second brain for decision making could just be your new super power!

If you're having chronic focus or mood issues, or ongoing digestive problems, you may want to look deeper into the issue with a doctor or naturopath. Food intolerances, digestive inflammation, and micronutrient deficiencies can leave you feeling foggy and down and craving sugar and caffeine to keep you going.

Your brain and gut are worth the time and attention to get balanced.

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