The Gut Brain Connection
(A.K.A.: the Gut-Brain Axis).
… affects gut health
… affects brain health
… affects gut health
The theory of the Gut Brain connection has been in the scientific literature for at least 7 decades, but has yet to be embraced by traditional medicine.
The Gut Brain Connection – In a Nutshell
Gut Brain Connection is a vicious cycle. Stress, depression and anxiety lead to Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth which leads to increased inflammation – including inflammation in the brain – which leads to more stress, depression and anxiety – which leads to more inflammation … .
Your brain sends signals to all of the nerves in your body. These signals are essential for everything from breathing to walking.
Much of the brain’s output is directed into the vagus nerve – a nerve that branches into more nerves that control most of the chest and abdominal cavities. The vagus nerve controls a wide variety of functions including: your heart beat, the secretion of digestive enzymes and the peristalsis of your intestines. Important: The vagus nerve controls and stimulates the digestive tract.
There is no surprise that the brain has a direct effect on the digestive system. For example: If you’re nervous or stressed, your stomach may feel upset. Just thinking about food can release digestive enzymes into the stomach.
Stress, anxiety, depression and other strong negative emotions decrease your brain activity – which decreases activation of the vagus nerve. This will reduce pancreatic enzyme secretion and cause poor gallbladder function, thereby reducing stomach acid production, decreasing gut motility, decreasing intestinal blood flow and suppressing the intestinal immune system.
When this reduced vagus nerve activation is persistent, the subsequent slowing down of digestive functions results in an increased growth of pathogenic yeast and bacteria in the intestinal tract. Important: These are not the beneficial bacteria that we are supposed to have in our digestive tract.
These “bad” yeast and bacteria contribute to an increase in intestinal permeability (a.k.a. leaky gut) and may cause a sufficiently leaky gut to produce systemic, chronic low grade inflammation. This effect of the brain on the gut is why people who suffer depression so often also have constipation or suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Important: Stress, anxiety and depression may result in a leaky gut.
What you might not know is: The intestinal tract sends signals to the brain, just as the brain sends signals to the gut. It is called the enteric nervous system and, it consists of more neurons than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. This network is so extensive, that it has been called the “Second Brain”.
The entire digestive system is lined by a network of neurons embedded directly into the walls of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum and colon. It has a very important job regulating all the various aspects of digestion, from breaking down food, to absorbing nutrients, to expelling waste.
About 90% of the fibers in the vagus nerve carry information from the gut to the brain – and not the other way around. And, there is scientific evidence to suggest that the gut can communicate directly with the brain, perhaps having a direct impact on emotions and moods via the nervous system.
The chemical signals that are sent to the brain from the irritated/damaged gut are better understood. When the gut becomes leaky and inflamed, the chemical signals of inflammation (cytokines) that are produced in the gut travel through the blood to the brain.
These inflammatory cytokines cross the blood-brain barrier and activate the brain’s resident immune cells – the microglial cells. Important: A leaky gut causes body-wide inflammation, including inflammation in the brain. An inflamed brain has decreased nerve activity which shows up as stress, depression and/or anxiety.
The Gut Brain Connection is a Vicious Cycle
This is the Gut Brain Connection. Stress, depression and anxiety lead to Intestinal Microbial Overgrowth which leads to increased inflammation – including inflammation in the brain – which leads to more stress, depression and anxiety – which leads to more inflammation … .
Question: Which comes first – intestinal tract or the brain?
Answer: It’s probably different in every person, depending on physiology, diet and life’s circumstances. It doesn’t matter where it started – the objective is to break this vicious cycle and reset the Gut Brain Connection.
Question: What can I do about fixing the gut brain connection?
Answer: Balance your Triangle of Health
- Stop chasing symptoms with cover-up medications.
- Identify the patterns producing this unhealthy cycle.
- Create new patterns to restore a healthy Gut-Brain Connection.
- Restore affected bodily systems.
The 3 steps are:
- Analyze and adjust the bio-mass entering the body.
- Analyze and adjust physical activity.
- Analyze and adjust emotional demands and stress.
Question: What if I don’t know how?
Answer: Seek help from a Natural Health Consultant, like Frank Lucas, PhD, NHC at The Radiant Health Club in Castle Rock, Colorado. Unlike Medical Professionals who are trained to manage symptoms with chemicals, a Natural Health Consultant can help you uncover the root cause, then create a plan to support your body’s ability to heal itself.