Have you ever experienced a "gut feeling" or noticed how certain foods can affect your mood? The connection between our gut and brain is a fascinating field of research known as the gut-brain axis. The gut and the brain are two powerhouses in the human body and hold the responsibility for many of the most important bodily functions even beyond their respective domains. An emerging field of research surrounding the gut-brains axis demonstrates how influential our gut health is to our brain health, including our mental and emotional well-being. Focusing your efforts on maintaining a healthy gut can do even more than improve digestion - it may also impact your brain function, mood and mental health. The reverse can also be true - managing your mental health, stress and anxiety may also impact the makeup of microbiota in the gut.
Over the last few years, scientists have brought to light an intricate communication network within our bodies that connects the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS), and the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain and spinal cord. This communication occurs through various channels, including the vagus nerve, neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune system molecules. Bacteria in the gut play a crucial role in maintaining gut health, regulating the immune system, and producing these essential neurotransmitters. The gut microbiota's composition and diversity can influence the signals transmitted along the gut-brain axis, impacting brain function, behavior, and mental health. For example, serotonin, a neurotransmitter often called the “happy hormone/chemical” because it contributes to mood regulation, is produced in the gut and communicates with the brain. Another neurotransmitter produced in the gut called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can influence feelings of fear or anxiety.
As gut and brain health products infiltrate and take over your social media feeds, it is not without good reason. We’ve learned that the two have such a close relationship that what is happening in one can have a major impact on the other. Understanding the connection between your gut and brain empowers you to take control of your overall well-being. Nurturing a healthy gut and brain through a balanced diet, appropriate supplements, regular exercise and stress management can positively impact your mental health, cognitive function and overall quality of life. Here are a few ways you can care for your gut-brain axis:
The gut-brain axis represents an exciting frontier in scientific research, shedding light on the profound connection between our gut health and mental well-being. By caring for our gut-brain axis, we can strive for a harmonious balance between our gut and brain, enhancing our overall well-being and quality of life.
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Appleton, J. (2018, August). The gut-brain axis: Influence of microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/
Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: Interactions between enteric microbiota, Central and Enteric Nervous Systems. Annals of gastroenterology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/#:~:text=The%20gut%2Dbrain%20axis%20(GBA,brain%20with%20peripheral%20intestinal%20functions.
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