Ever wondered why you say “I have a bad gut feeling” or “I have butterflies in my stomach” or “It felt like a blow to my gut” when fearful or angry? These commonplace expressions have a lot more truth to them than the obvious. Your gut and your brain are directly related. In stressful situations, your brain is not the only organ that’s freaking out. Your gut is doing some cartwheels too!
How The Gut-Brain Axis Works
There have been multiple studies on how the gut communicates bi-directionally with the brain via a pathway called the gut-brain axis.1 So, how does this happen? Intestinal bacteria send signals to the brain and the brain sends signals back via neural, endocrine, and immune cells.
Digestive disorders, like an unhealthy microbiome, often lead not only to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety but also to other physical health issues.2 These are directly or indirectly related to neurotransmitters. Hence, the bidirectional signaling between the gut and the brain is important for maintaining a good stress response as well as overall emotional and cognitive well-being.
- Probiotic intervention to repair gut issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also reduces anxiety and stress response while improving mood and reducing chronic fatigue.3
- Studies show that depression is frequently associated with gut issues due to chronic low-grade inflammation.4
- A “leaky” gut may be associated with brain-related issues like ADD/ADHD and cognitive, memory, and behavioral disruptions.5
How Is Gut Health Related To Brain Health?
Your brain depends on the gut to function properly. Here’s how:
- One of the important roles of the gut microbiome is to act as a defense system, and this takes care of mental well-being as well.
- About 70–80% of the immune system is located in the gut where the right balance of microbes keeps your immune system strong. This, in turn, is linked to your emotional health.
- Ninety percent of all diseases can be traced back to the gut microbiome, including neurological diseases.
- Good gut bacteria produce nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin K, and biotin to keep you healthy and boost brain health.
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are beneficial to the cells lining the gut and promote the release of brain-beneficial neurotransmitters.
- Dopamine, serotonin, and beta-endorphins are important neurotransmitters that are stimulated by a healthy gut flora and natural foods.
To Boost The Gut-Brain Relationship
Taking care of your gut will automatically boost your brain health. So first, support the gut microbiome by taking these steps:
- Get adequate levels of micro and macro nutrients from whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins like organic chicken or turkey, healthy fats like avocado, seeds, and nuts, and complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, and quinoa.
- Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates. Use healthy sugar options like stevia instead.
- Go for probiotic-rich foods and supplements to increase the variety of good bacteria and reduce inflammation.
- Increase the intake of prebiotic fiber-rich vegetables to feed the good bacteria.
- Use digestive enzymes that help break down foods for the absorption of important micro nutrients.
- Eat mindfully by chewing the food and enjoying your meal.
- Address and repair any gut issues such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), IBS, or leaky gut, which are often linked to emotional diseases.
- Remove toxins from your life, environment, and food.
- Follow an elimination diet if you suspect food sensitivities/intolerances.
It is exciting to see that brain health can be supported in so many natural ways. Just remember that finding the root cause of any disease is of utmost importance and this lies, in most cases, in the gut. Consult a holistic health care provider such as a transformational nutrition coach to find out more about how to support your health best.
|↑1||Evrensel, Alper, and Mehmet Emin Ceylan. “The gut-brain axis: the missing link in depression.” Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience 13, no. 3 (2015): 239.|
|↑2||Foster, Jane A., and Karen-Anne McVey Neufeld. “Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression.” Trends in neurosciences 36, no. 5 (2013): 305-312.|
|↑3||Aragon, George, Deborah B. Graham, Marie Borum, and David B. Doman. “Probiotic therapy for irritable bowel syndrome.” Gastroenterology & hepatology 6, no. 1 (2010): 39.|
|↑4||Maes, Michael, Marta Kubera, Jean-Claude Leunis, and Michael Berk. “Increased IgA and IgM responses against gut commensals in chronic depression: further evidence for increased bacterial translocation or leaky gut.” Journal of affective disorders 141, no. 1 (2012): 55-62.|
|↑5||Bachner, Harriet A. “A healthy gut and a healthy brain: Implications for counseling and lifestyle.” ACA Vistas Online. Recuperado de http://www. counseling. org/docs/default-source/vistas/article_47a55c21f16116603abcacff0000bee5e7. pdf (2015).|