The brain and the gut. They couldn’t be more different… right?
Your gut and your brain are actually very closely related. You could even consider them partners in crime.
Research is beginning to uncover that your brain and gut are very closely intertwined via something called the brain-gut axis. This is the network through which your brain and gut communicate and work together to perform a wide variety of bodily functions.
Understanding your brain-gut axis can help you keep both your brain and gut healthy and happy. Here is a quick look at what your brain-gut axis is and how it works!
What Exactly Is the Brain-Gut Axis?
To begin to understand what the brain-gut-microbiota axis is, we need to understand what part of your gut is communicating with your brain.
Your gut is home to a lot of bacteria and microorganisms, and a lot of them. About ten times more microorganisms live in your gut than there are cells in your body, and they can affect your behavior, your central nervous system, and tons of bodily mechanisms.
Bacteria and bacteroidetes, gut microbes, and other microorganisms that make up your gut microbiota composition help your body in many areas: gastrointestinal tract and stomach health, immune health, nervous system regulation, hormone regulation, and so much more.
Your gut does so much regulation and functioning that it is sometimes called the second brain. The microbiome-gut-brain axis may be a powerful tool when combatting mood disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, constipation, and other bodily functions.
How Do the Gut and Brain Communicate?
So the gut and the brain are responsible for lots of bodily functions and activities and are connected via the brain-gut axis. But how do the gut and brain communicate?
The gut and brain communicate through a few channels:
- The vagus nerve: The vagus nerve carries signals to and from the brain and intestines, which stimulates the hypothalamus and limbic system.
- Neuroendocrine signaling: The bacteria in your gut produce neuropeptides, which are then carried in the bloodstream and directly influence the enteric nervous system.
- Interference with Tryptophan metabolism: Both the gut and brain are important producers of neurotransmitters. Serotonin—the happy hormone, is mostly produced in the gut. In the brain, this impacts mood, and elsewhere in the body assists with GI secretion regulation, muscle contraction, and pain perception. Tryptophan, an amino acid that the gut microbiome metabolizes, is the precursor to serotonin production.
- Immune System: Gut-associated lymphoid tissue is over two-thirds of your entire immune system. This GALT communicates with your brain via immune cells' pathways.
- Intestinal Permeability: Stress chemicals in the brain appear to increase intestinal permeability, which might be a contributor to depression, anxiety-like emotions, and other psychiatric conditions.
- Production of Microbial Metabolites: Many different kinds of bacteria in your gut produce neurotransmitters like GABA, Serotonin, dopamine, and short-chain fatty acids, which can stimulate the nervous system.
- HPA Axis: The HPA axis, or hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, can be affected by leaky gut syndrome, which can occur during chronic stress. This can cause an overactive and sensitive HPA.
All of these factors are different pathways via which your gut and brain communicate. These together encompass the web of communicators that make up the brain-gut axis.
What Does the Brain-Gut Axis Do?
The brain-gut axis performs many different functions. The gut and brain work together to operate the immune system, regulate the hormones in your body, produce neurotransmitters that impact mood and cognition, and a lot more.
Fostering a healthy gut can help support a healthy brain and vice versa. Here are a few ways to improve your brain-gut axis to allow your brain and gut to work together healthily.
Work on Stress Management
Stress, particularly chronic stress, leads to a buildup of cortisol, which can cause issues with your gut, leading to more stress and other brain health issues.
Managing your stress can help you improve your gut and brain health, allowing the two to work together… stress-free, if you will.
One study found that stress can actually alter the gut microbiome, changing the bacterial makeup of your gut. The study concluded that this could impact mood and emotional functions.
A review of several studies also found that stress has an impact on the gut microbiota. This review also found that meditation helps regulate the stress response and thus helps maintain gut health.
So if you are looking to fortify the brain-gut connection, try adding meditation and mindfulness techniques into your daily routine.
Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats found mostly in fish. Omega-3s are also found in very high amounts in the human brain. Omega-3s work twofold in the brain-gut axis, benefitting you on both ends of the spectrum.
Omega-3s have been clinically proven to increase the good bacteria in your gut while simultaneously decreasing the risk of developing brain disorders.
Try to consume more fish and other sources of omega-3s like walnuts and pumpkin seeds. You could also take a fish oil supplement to increase your omega-3 intake.
Consume Pre and Probiotics
Probiotics is the name for the healthy bacteria in your gut that works with your brain to promote health and wellness. Prebiotics are a type of indigestible fiber that serves as the major food source for the probiotics living in your gut.
Consuming prebiotics and probiotics is essential to promoting the proper gut bacterial health to keep your brain-gut axis functioning correctly.
But not only can consuming probiotics foster a healthy gut, it can also work wonders for your brain health. Prebiotics do not have as strong of a direct impact on brain health and the brain-gut access. However, as their main purpose is serving as a fuel source for your probiotics, consuming prebiotics is essential for your brain-gut axis health.
Prebiotics can be found in all sorts of plant foods, like asparagus, leafy greens, onions, leeks, and various roots. You can also find prebiotic supplements and prebiotic fortified foods.
A great new way to get a dose of prebiotics is with our VINA prebiotic sodas. VINA offers you a healthy soda—the first of its kind—sweetened with stevia and containing real juices and prebiotics to support a happy and healthy gut. Give VINA a try today, and see how great it is!
Brain-Gut Axis Takeaways
The brain-gut axis is the network of communication channels that connects your gut bacteria and brain to help regulate all sorts of bodily functions. These functions range from mood and hormone regulation to immune function.
Promoting a healthy brain-gut axis involves taking care of both your gut and brain health. The best ways to support the health of your brain-gut axis are to manage your stress levels, eat omega-3 fatty acids, and consume pre and probiotic foods, like VINA probiotic soda.
Hopefully, now you understand a little bit more about the brain-gut connection. With a little bit of care, you can support a healthy brain-gut connection and be prepared to take your life on at the best of your abilities.