The Gut and Brain Connection
Have you felt “butterflies” in your stomach? and felt like you had to run to the bathroom when you had your first interview for a job or meeting a new person. What about someone saying I have a “gut feeling” this will not go well, or even people telling you, “trust your gut. ” This means you felt something in your gut because the emotion that was felt at the moment was so real. All these tell us how our gut and brain are connected, proving the importance of communicating with each other to function properly.
How does your gut communicate with your brain?
The gut has 500 million neurons that operate like the superhighway between the gut and the brain. It’s called the brain-gut axis (1) and gives constant updates on what’s going in both ends’ state affairs. Here are the two ways that can facilitate their connection.
The gut and the brain are connected by the vagus nerve, also known as the “gut-brain axis,” which is the biggest nerve in the Central nervous system (CNS) that acts as the pathway between them and the other vital organs like the heart. (2) Here is a video explaining about gut-brain axis The surprisingly charming science of your gut | Giulia Enders
The gut and brain can communicate by releasing chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters that send messages back and forth to each other. These chemicals can be affected by bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which live in the gut, known as the “gut microbiome.” The microbiome can be harmful, harmless, or beneficial to your health depending on your gut health(3)
In fact, when the gut microbiome is out of balance, it affects many things like your …..
- Pain tolerance
- Mental well-being
Why is the gut called the second brain?
The gut is called the second brain because it can operate independently without the central nervous system (CNS ), as indicated in this research (4) done by Founders University. Also it plays a vital role in our day-to-day decision-making. Also the microbes in your gut have everything to do with the way you feel and behave.
There are about 100 million neurons are lining the digestive tract. It is a massive network of nerve cells. it is so huge that it was nicknamed the second brain. It is also known as the enteric nervous system( ENS ), which has more nerve cells than the spinal cord.
How do you improve the brain-gut connection?
No diet is one hundred percent guaranteed to work for our gut or brain, but we have plenty of foods that can make both of them happy. These foods will give the nutrients they need to function properly as well as prevent diseases. Such foods like,
Food like Salmon, Flaxseeds, and Walnuts have been shown to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and increase the gut microbiome’s diversity. (5) They also calm, increase memory and cognitive function, and reduce sugar cravings
Lack of this vitamin causes depression, as well as inflammatory bowel disease. Here are some food with vitamin D
- Fortified Milk,
- Salmon, and tuna,
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Orange juice,
Sources, Lean beef, turkey, chicken, fish, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, nut, and eggs.
Decreases inflammation and increases gut microbes; sources would be fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and beans and legumes.
They help by balancing and increasing the gut microbiota diversity; for example, Kimchi, Kefir, and Sauerkraut are excellent fermented food sources. The microbes from these foods act as probiotics, which help with indigestion and mood.
Always check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet. Because not everyone can tolerate fermented food, or it might react with the medication you are taking.
Limiting artificial sweeteners and sugar
Foods that have added sugar can give you a sugar crash (6), leading to irritability and anxiety. Also, artificial sugars, like aspartame, can cause depression. Therefore both artificial and added sugar are found in processed foods. Even foods that we might think to be healthy, like bread and yogurt, added artificial sugars.
Avoiding Alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol can cause both physical and mental harm effect. Healthline.com has conducted a study following the gut flora of 41 alcoholics compared to 10 healthy individuals who drank low to none alcohol drinks.
Results were about 27% (7) of the alcoholics had imbalanced gut microbiota while the other group had no gut issues.
Getting Enough Sleep
Obesity has been associated with a lack of sleep. This study proves changes to the gut flora after missing a few nights of sleep that also causes weight gain. Hence; when you have a good gut microbiota then comes a good night sleep.
What we eat definitely affects both our gut and brain health. The food we eat is digested by our gut microbes, which changes it into nutrients that nourish our body. If we don’t eat the right food, our body is going to suffer the consequence. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, you start experiencing bloating, stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea.
Therefore: what we eat has an impact on our overall health, including our brain. The vagus nerve mediates the connection between the gut-brain axis; it sends information to both sides, which means a healthy gut communicates with your brain through the nerves and hormones. This maintains your general health and wellbeing.
The gut microbiome produces about 90% of serotonin (8). That is why there is a correlation between gut and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses. ( 9) Research shows that there is a link between what we put in our bodies and the health of our minds. Hence, healthy food for your gut equals a healthy brain, plain and simple.