Is there an actual connection between the brain and the gut? It seems like a strange concept, so many people shrug it off. However, the brain and the gut are intricately connected through a shared pathway known as the gut-brain axis (GBA). This pathway is essentially a means of communication between the gut and the brain, and it can cause the brain to affect the health of the gut, and vice versa.
This connection between the two organs is nothing short of incredible. It involves a number of components working together to provide clear communication between the gut and the brain.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The components that ensure the proper connection between the gut and the brain are both physical and biochemical. Each aspect has its own purpose, helping the communication between the two organs.
- The nervous system
The body’s commands come from the neurons which are in the brain, the nervous system, as well as the gut. The neurons in the gut communicate with the neurons in the brain through nerves that are in the nervous system.
The nerves provide a means of communication between the gut and the brain by sending out signals in both directions.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that connect the brain with the gut. Some neurotransmitters are produced in the brain and control a person’s feelings and emotions. One neurotransmitter, serotonin, helps with positive feelings such as happiness.
Many neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps with fear and anxiety-reduction and control. More that 80% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut.
- Gut microbes and chemicals
There are literally trillions of microbes in the gut and these are collectively referred to as the Gut Microbiome. These microbes help make the chemicals that affect the way the brain works. Short-chain fatty acids that are produced in the gut can affect the function of the brain in a variety of ways. Same here, the gut microbiome is heavily involved in the creation of these short-chain fatty acids.
Due to these connections between the brain and the gut, the overall health of the gut likely has drastic effects on a person’s behavior, response to stress, and mood.
How to assist the brain and achieve higher function by treating the gut
Evidence shows that the gut microbiome directly affects the health of the brain. That means that it is extremely likely that a change in gut bacteria will result in an improvement of brain function and health. There is mounting evidence that changing gut microbiome can even help with major issues such as depression, autism, and schizophrenia.
As the brain is a huge player in the entire functioning of the body, by changing and improving the gut microbiome, people are truly helping themselves in incredible ways.
There are a number of things that one can do in order to change their gut bacteria and achieve higher brain function, including:
- Taking probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria. They are known for the great health benefits that they provide when consumed. There are probiotics that affect the brain, and these are sometimes even called psychobiotics.
By taking brain-assisting probiotics, people have demonstrated improvement with certain conditions such as depression, stress, and anxiety.
- Taking prebiotics
Prebiotics are fiber that are known to be essential for the bacteria in the gut. They are also known for having a positive effect on the health of the brain probably through the supporting effect they have on the microbiome. Any gut supporting regimen that involves a probiotic should absolutely also have a prebiotic, preferably from whole food sources.
- Eating certain healing foods for the gut
There are a number of foods that, when eaten, provide incredible benefits for the brain through the gut-brain axis. Many diets promote eating these foods in order to heal the gut before physical and mental health benefits can be seen.
Foods that improve gut bacteria are natural, whole foods. They are prepared in a traditional manner in order to draw out all of the hidden benefits lying dormant within each one. The foods that you should eat to help your gut, and therefore your brain, are:
- Fermented foods
Fermented foods include microbes that increase gut health and, in turn, increase brain health as well. These foods include kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and even cheese. Buyer beware, many of these products contain a lot of sugar and/or corn starch which will totally negate any benefits you get.
- Omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fats are known for being quite fishy, because they are found in oily fish. These essential fats are able to increase the good bacteria that is in the gut, while reducing the risk of trouble or disorders in the brain.
- High-fiber foods
High-fiber foods contain prebiotics that support good gut bacteria. HIgh-fiber, prebiotic foods include vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Tryptophan-rich foods
Foods such as turkey, cheese, and eggs contain tryptophan. This amino-acid converts into the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which promotes positive feelings like happiness.
- Polyphenol-rich foods
Polyphenols are chemicals from plants that the gut bacteria digests. By improving healthy gut bacteria and communicating with the brain, it is suggested that they will improve cognition. Polyphenols are found in coffee, green tea, olive oil, and cocoa. Polyphenols are also potent antioxidants and help reduce inflammation, a definite plus!
The gut-brain axis and your brain’s health
The gut-brain axis allows for communication between the gut and the brain, essentially allowing one to tell the other what to do. By focusing on supporting the gut microbiome and healing any damage that has been done, people are treating their brains as well.
A healthy brain and proper functioning is important for everyone. Utilizing natural remedies to achieve a healthy body and a high-functioning brain is essential. Interestingly, it seems the brain’s best medicine is the body itself; a body that has an abundance of healthy gut bacteria.