The Gut-Brain Connection

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Given the overwhelming evidence that gut health affects brain health, cognitive functioning and psychological well-being, coaches need to start asking their clients about their gut health. With stress being endemic in our modern society, many clients will have gastrointestinal issues. If gut issues are not addressed, your client’s progress or outcome will almost certainly be compromised.

An example from my own coaching practice is my client, Sarah. Sarah is a portfolio manager and it’s obvious, on meeting her, that she’s highly intelligent and accomplished. Sarah had been progressing steadily in her career until a few months ago when she started developing a new market for herself. She became paralyzed with fear, and her low self-esteem, which she had managed to keep at bay, surfaced. After several weeks of coaching with no movement forward and encouragement to clean up her diet (she’s an emotional junk-food eater), she finally agreed to give up sugar and, almost immediately, noticed an increase in mental clarity and mood.

When she went back to junk food, her “brain fog” returned and her self-esteem plummeted. Sarah yo-yos between clean eating and junk food and both of us have noticed that when she’s eating clean, she has an abundant amount of mental energy and self esteem. When she reverts back to her junk-food diet, we might as well not have a coaching session.

When clients clean up their diets, even if the change is not as dramatic as it was for Sarah, their stress levels will likely decrease and their energy, mental focus, and mood increase. And with their higher energy levels and better mental focus and mood, coaching will be more effective and progress faster.

This article was originally published in the ICF Blog on December 18, 2015.

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