Gut and Brain Connection
Have you ever wondered why you feel sudden upset stomach when you are nervous or anxious about something? Or why you feel butterflies when you see someone you like?
The reason for this is the scientifically proven connection between our gut and brain, which allows both systems to be affected by each other. Hence every time that you have felt a change in your gut functioning due to changes in your emotions and thought it was a mere coincidence, it was not, and the association is actually proven by scientific data and reasoning.
1) What is the Role of the Human Gut?
The human digestive tract, which is also known as our gut, is one of the most important structures in our body. This system is not only involved with the digestion of the food we eat by breaking it down into small particles but also facilitates its absolution, which helps provide energy to the body to carry out its functions efficiently. Due to its close association with the brain, it is also able to affect the activity of other systems of the body, which include the immune system, muscular and skeletal system, and fluid secretions.
2) What is the Role of the Brain?
The brain is the main control system of the body that helps us with our thoughts, memories, our senses, the ability to recognize the people and things around us, our vision, breathing, body temperatures, and even emotions. Hence, our brain is what makes us who we are. This special system communicates with the rest of the body by sending signals to various organs and, in turn, helps control the different bodily processes.
3) What is the Connection between the Gut and the Brain?
The connection between the gut and the brain is scientifically known as the Gut-Brain Axis, which is basically a system of communication between the two body systems. This communication allows the complete maintenance of the homeostasis of the gastrointestinal system and also has a direct effect on brain functioning. The systems of the body which are actively involved in the Gut-Brain Axis include the Spinal Cord, Brain, and Enteric Nervous system, The Autonomic Nervous System, and the Hypothalamus and Pituitary Gland. (1)
4) How Do the Microorganisms of Gut Affect the Brain?
The microbiota found in the gut is able to affect the development and maturation of portions of the nervous system, including the Central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. (2) Moreover, studies conducted to explore these associations have also shown that the absence of certain microorganisms in the gut can also lead to changes in the neurotransmitters of both the central and enteric nervous systems. (3) This can also lead to alternations of the sensory functions and motor functions of the gut, which may lead to pathological states like delayed emptying of the gut.
5) How Does the Brain Influence The Gut?
The way in which the brain affects gut functioning is by causing modulation of the motility of the gut, the acid secretions, mucus, and bicarbonate production, along with the immune responses generated in the intestine. While the secretions of acid directly impact the digestion of food and the development of pathological conditions like ulcers, mucus and bicarbonate affect the bacterial protecting abilities of the gut, and the changes in the motility of the gut lead affect the emptying and the consistency of the stool. (4)
6) Natural Ways to Improve Gut Health
Consuming Fiber-Rich Foods
A fiber-rich diet is mainly composed of plant-based foods and is an effective natural remedy for promoting gut health. This is because fiber helps the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and also increases their diversity. This leads to the prevention of many gut-related and metabolic diseases. Common fiber-rich foods include spinach, beetroot, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Natural Probiotic Supplements can also be used as a way to promote gut health, as they are a source of healthy bacteria for the gut. The health of the gut is promoted by a greater number of healthy bacteria in the gut as compared to those that cause disease. Due to ability of probitoics to increase the healthy bacteria in the gut, it helps prevent the development of diseases and lead to a maintenance of healthy a gut.
Maintaining regular exercise has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for the gut. Since the microorganisms of the gut play an important role in the maintenance of gut health, the ability of daily exercise to promote the diversity of the gut makes it an effective method for preventing gut disease and promoting its long-term health.
7) Natural Ways to Improve Brain Health
Getting enough sleep during the night is an important factor for promoting brain activity. It does not only help remove the presence of abnormal protein buildups from the brain and promote memory formation but also helps us stay much more active the next morning to carry out daily activities efficiently.
Consuming a Mediterranean Diet
What we eat has a crucial effect on our brain, which is why it is essential to consume a healthy diet in order to promote brain health and slow down cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet is a special diet that is composed of high levels of whole grains, plant-based foods, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. Another important factor that makes this diet unique is the lack of salts and red meat incorporated into it, which is commonly found in the average American food. (5)
Keeping the Brain Engaged
Playing certain board games or crossword puzzles that urge us to think and analyze our moves is an effective way to keep the brain alert. Experts claim this to be a way to cross-train your brain, which helps boost our analytical skills and our ability to think in stressful and difficult situations.
- Martin CR, Osadchiy V, Kalani A, Mayer EA. The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis. Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018;6(2):133-148. Published 2018 Apr 12. doi:10.1016/j.jcmgh.2018.04.003
- Barbara G, Stanghellini V, Brandi G, Cremon C, Di Nardo G, De Giorgio R, Corinaldesi R. Interactions between commensal bacteria and gut sensorimotor function in health and disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Nov;100(11):2560-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.00230.x. PMID: 16279914.
- Diaz Heijtz R, Wang S, Anuar F, Qian Y, Björkholm B, Samuelsson A, Hibberd ML, Forssberg H, Pettersson S. Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):3047-52. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010529108. Epub 2011 Jan 31. PMID: 21282636; PMCID: PMC3041077.
- Macfarlane S, Dillon JF. Microbial biofilms in the human gastrointestinal tract. J Appl Microbiol. 2007 May;102(5):1187-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03287.x. PMID: 17448154.
- Féart C, Samieri C, Barberger-Gateau P. Mediterranean diet and cognitive function in older adults. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(1):14-18. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283331fe4