Gut-Brain Axis, What is it and Why is it so Important?

in Blog

The gut-brain axis is the communication highway between the gastrointestinal tract and our brain. It controls many physical processes in the body, such as digestion and fullness sensation. The human gut and brain are linked by a network of neurons in the enteric nervous system, the ENS. 


The ENS consists of about 500 million neurons, which govern digestion and immunity. These neurons are connected via vagal nerve fibers in the gut, which sends information from the gut to the brain and vice versa. In other words, your gut can make decisions for you.


The gut-brain axis is bidirectional; that means that you can influence your mood with food, and also, what you feel can influence how you think. The gut-brain axis also plays a role in some mental health disorders. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms include mood changes, which are due to increased intestinal permeability or 'leaky gut.'


How Does Your Gut Health Relate To Depression? 

This is an exciting question that fewer people seem to be asking. It's not a question many people even know they should be asking. Yet, it is essential, and the answer can change your life. 

A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that probiotics can be used to treat depression. They discovered that certain strains of probiotics have antidepressant-like effects on mice.

Gut health is something that most of us don't even give a second thought. But if you suffer from depression, you'll start giving it second thoughts because the connection between gut and depression is strong.

If your gut health is not good enough, you're prone to depression. This is because your intestines are lined with millions of nerve cells connected to your brain. If you have chronic inflammatory gut diseases or an autoimmune disease, this can lead to depression.

Sad, Neutral and Happy face stickers

How Does the Gut-Axis Affect Moods?

Your gut is more than just a source of indigestion. It's a living ecosystem that houses around 100 trillion bacteria. This community of microbes is called the microbiome, and it performs a wide range of functions for us, including breaking down food and producing neurotransmitters, like serotonin. 60% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps with mood regulation, comes from the gut.

Our gut releases several substances like hormones, proteins, and neurotransmitters into our blood when we eat. Then, they travel to the brain and talk to all the different systems in your body. They send messages to your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands, as well as to your intestinal tract. Such signals make you feel calmer or more stressed.

These signals can also make you feel more happy or sad. If you are constantly stressed, your body will produce a lot of cortisol. The adrenal glands release this hormone, which can impact your sleep. It can also increase blood sugar in your body and make you feel stressed out or moody.

Does The Gut Brain-Axis Affect Memory?

Memory loss is becoming more common with age, but that doesn't mean that nothing can be done about it. Dementia can occur due to several factors, and the gut-brain axis is one of them. If you want to keep your brain and memory sharp as you age, it's essential to keep everything in your gut healthy.

White puzzle of Brain with missing piece that is off to the side

The gut-brain axis has a massive impact on how your brain works. There's a connection between your gut health and the brain's ability to form and recall memories. This is because the gut produces bacterial metabolites, which activate receptors in the brain and help in memory formation. This might explain why people who suffer from dysbiosis have difficulty forming fresh memories. It may also explain how probiotics can treat disorders like depression.

Importance of Gut Brain-axis

The best thing about this system is that it uses a central core that connects different parts of your body, which means you can influence it in many ways. Its common benefits include:

It Enhances Digestion

When you eat, your body needs to digest the food you consume. The process of digestion starts in your mouth and ends in your intestines. It's also where the immune system is located. When you have a healthy gut, your body can efficiently absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. A probiotic supplement can help to improve digestion and promote a healthy immune system.

It Helps to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Your gut is your body's largest organ. It plays a vital role in regulating how you feel and think and how you digest food. If your gut is not healthy, it can affect your metabolism and lead to weight gain.

What Foods Help the Gut-Brain Axis?

It is possible to improve your health by changing what you put into your body. Certain foods can have a beneficial effect on your brain function, especially with mood and anxiety. These foods are known as prebiotics and probiotics.

Various Pickled foods in bowls on wood table

  • Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in some foods and supplements. They can help you maintain a healthy digestive system, which will lead to improved brain function. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
  • Omega-3 fats and high-fiber foods can help improve mood and increase cognitive function. Omega 3 fats help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which in turn reduces some of the symptoms of depression
Fiber based Fruits, Vegetables, and grains on wood table
  • High-fiber foods are beneficial because they feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood and behavior.
  • Polyphenols are natural compounds present in dark chocolate, green tea, red wine and berries. They have been shown to affect gut health in some ways, from improving gut barrier function to reducing gut inflammation.

Bottom Line

Optimizing the gut brain-axis is an excellent place to start if you want to improve your health and wellness. By making a few simple changes, such as eating more fermented foods and drinking more water, you can establish regular bowel movements and enjoy a host of additional benefits that are important to your overall wellbeing.

Since thousands of nerves link the brain and the gut, you can imagine how important it is to keep them running smoothly. If you feel like your health isn't where you want it to be, then maybe it's time for some changes in your diet.

To learn more about the gut brain-axis, probiotics and health, bookmark the learn section of our website.