People often feel a fluttering in their stomachs when they need to give a speech, meet someone in which they develop a romantic interest, or when they’re going to important interviews. While most people chalk this feeling up to nerves, having butterflies in the stomach may have links to your gut health.
It may surprise you to learn that your brain and your stomach has a connection that triggers the feeling of butterflies in the stomach or fluttering in the gut. Researchers have found that people with certain conditions with links to the brain have different microbiota in their stomach than healthy people. This connection is the gut-brain axis.
Some of the conditions include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease, IBD
Scientists have made discoveries leading them to conclude that the gut-brain axis has links to the cognitive and emotional centers of the brain and influences the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. The digestive tract and brain communicate through signals from the nerves, like the Vagus nerve, via neurotransmitters.
Through these chemicals that send messages to the brain, thoughts, emotions, stress and psychological issues can cause feelings like butterflies in stomach or sensations in the gut and affect secretions and the movement of fluids and organisms, known as motility. If someone has IBS or IBD, then there is a disruption of the communication between the brain and the gut.
How the Gut and Brain Communicate
The gut-brain axis, GBA, involves two-way communication between the central nervous system (CNA) and the enteric nervous system (ENA). While most people know that the brain and the nervous system in the body are always sending messages back and forth to various areas in the body, the ENA is a system of neurons that manages the functions of the GI tract.
Through the neuro-immune-endocrine mediators within the GBA, the brain influences how the intestines function. Along with gut microbiota, there is also some emerging evidence that the microbiome also is important in the GBA structure. Getting to know the causes, symptoms, and remedies for digestive diseases supplements this reading.
The microbiome and microbiota are different in that the microbiota refers to microbes in a specific ecosystem, such as the gut, while microbiome is all the microorganisms in or on a host, as well as their genetic material. Scientists estimate the genetic material of the microbiome is 150 times greater than that of the human genome.
A study between the microbiome and its links of health to disease, the Human Microbiome Project, has shown that the bacterial phyla in the gut, Firmicutes, and Bacteroides, account for 75 percent of its microbiota. It also found that both of the phyla are sensitive to change.
Scientists are finding that disruptions to the microbiome have links to butterflies in the stomach, allergies, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Eight categories of neuropsychiatric disordersexist, including:
- Eating Disorders
- Degenerative Diseases
- Childhood and Development
- Mood Disorders
- Neurotic Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
Stomach Issues Due to Emotion
Severe stomach problems such as butterflies in the stomach can develop due to the gut/brain connection, and stomach problems can cause changes in emotions, mood, and stress levels. The GI tract is sensitive to a person’s feelings, so if something upsets you and you feel like throwing up or feel butterflies in the stomach, that is the result of how the emotions you’re feeling are communicated to the gut.
The physiology of the gut can be affected by psychosocial factors. For example, stress or depression can affect how the GI tract moves, its motility, or contracts, inflammation can get worse, or it can make people more susceptible to infections. Some people feel pain much easier because their brains are more sensitive to pain signals from the GI tract.
Over 13 studies show that people with digestive tract disorders who had therapy to reduce their stress, anxiety and to treat depression had better improvements in their symptoms than people who had conventional medical treatments for their digestive symptoms.
Treatments for Gut Disorders
Although the available research is limited, there is evidence that changes in the microbiota can cause psychological changes. Many researchers believe that by manipulating gut microbiota, they can successfully treat and prevent diseases.
For instance, in one study, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were given the probiotic Lactobacillus casei, and it led to decreases in their levels of anxiety. Another study found that patients with IBS took a prebiotic that also led to reductions in their anxiety.
The manipulation of the gut can occur in three ways, by using:
Diet and lifestyle changes.
As mentioned above, studies have found that using pre- and probiotics can change the microbiota in the gut and help alleviate some psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, and others. The use of probiotics can help reduce the release of cortisol, which is a hormone in the adrenal gland that is released in response to stress and low blood sugar.
Reducing this hormone can help reduce behaviors with ties to butterflies in the stomach, anxiety, and depression. The probiotic in this study was the Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Symptoms of stress include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Losing interest in sex
- Lack of focus
- Trouble relaxing
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of stress, depression, or you feel blue, then you may want to add probiotics to your diet. You can do so by buying probiotics for your gut or adding foods that contain them. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, dark chocolate, and cottage cheese contain probiotics. Also, Dannon probiotics aid your gut health.
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics when you have a bacterial infection, like bacterial pneumonia, an abscess in the mouth or a urinary tract infection. Bacteria provide an atmosphere for parasitic and pathogenic microbes to thrive.
When microbiota underwent changes because of antibiotics, there were also changes in adult behaviors because of the adjustment of hormone levels of expression and the metabolic pathways of tryptophan. Both the pathways and expression levels have links to the secretion of serotonin.
A study done with mice revealed that they did poorly on memory tests after receiving antibiotics. The result was partly due to problems with the hippocampal neurogenesis. However, when the mice had access to an exercise wheel or were given probiotics, there were vast improvements in the results.
The researchers in the study were able to show that a subset of monocytes were cells in communication with the brain, the gut, and the immune system. They were able to show that mice could counteract the absence of gut microbiota and restore neurogenesis with exercise or probiotics.
So, if you’re taking antibiotics, you could counteract the loss of neurogenesis by maintaining the levels of gut flora by taking probiotics or with exercise.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Another way to manipulate the gut is or the butterflies in the stomach through your diet and by making lifestyle changes. What you eat may be able to change the functionality and makeup of the microbes within the stomach. These changes can also affect the adaptive and innate immune systems and influence moods and behaviors in some people.
A study of a case involving a young man with visual and auditory hallucinations that he had experienced since the age of eight found that he had a gluten allergy. Upon a recommendation from a dietician, his mother, to remove gluten from his diet, the intensity of the auditory hallucinations greatly deceased and the violent reactions he had also diminished.
By adding foods with probiotics in them, such as fermented foods or drinks, people can maintain a healthy level of microbiota in their gut. The microbiota can ensure the good gut health, regular bowel movements, and help prevent some diseases.
Fermented foods and drinks include:
- Sourdough bread
- Apple cider vinegar
- Pickled cucumbers
Studies show that keeping good bacteria at optimal levels can help to reduce cortisol and inflammation levels, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, reduce reactions to stress and social anxiety. Healing your gut with remedies from Mother Nature works the best.
Butterflies in Stomach: What Should I do?
Along with improving your gut health by adding probiotic foods, you should also increase how much you exercise, even if it is just walking the dog around the block. In studies, exercise has been shown to change the makeup of gut microbiome. Adding easy to digest foods to your diet works fine for all.
In one study, a sample of the microbiome from each participant was taken, which were 16 lean and 14 obese adults. They were then put on a regimen of cardiovascular exercises three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes per session for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, some participants had an increase in the microbiome, while others had a decrease in them.
However, after the participants had stopped exercising for another six weeks, the number of microbiomes changed again. The same result occurs when someone ceases taking probiotics. The effect of taking them or working out is not permanent, so you must keep up with lifestyle changes if you want to keep a healthy number of good bacteria in your gut.
These studies indicate that you should consider your gut health if signs of emotions like anger, sadness, stress, or others make you feel nauseous or give you butterflies in the stomach. Don’t just treat the symptoms of digestive disorders but consider the overall cause and include probiotics in your diet and exercise regularly to change both your gut and mental health.