The Gut-Brain Connection
Did you know the gut has been a focus of health and wellness since 460BC. Hippocrates initially proposed the idea that diseases initiate in the gut, and while that is still yet to be determined, it goes to show that the gut has been of interest for thousands of years. In the 1900s it was thought that the changes in gastric secretions were associated with different emotions, like happiness and anger. Current research is expanding this idea to understand the connection between the gut and the brain, aka the gut-brain axis. While we don’t have a full understanding of the gut-brain axis yet, it’s presence and function in overall health is undeniably important.
The brain has two main systems, the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the central nervous system (CNS). The ENS controls gastrointestinal behavior independently of the CNS. The gut brain axis consist of the:
- ENS: referred to as the “second brain” that is able to function after denervation (when the nerve stops sending transductions). The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of this system are responsible for sending signals from the gut to the CNS (afferent signals) and from the CNS to the gut (efferent signals).
- Vagus and Spinal Nerves: The vagus has afferens (neurons that carry signals) all over the digestive wall, but not inside the digestive tract. Activation of these nerves depends on hormones, cytokines, and metabolites.
- Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA axis): a controlled network of signals between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland that are a part of the limbic system. This system functions to react to different environmental stimuli, like stress, and regulates digestion, mood, and even energy storage/expenditure.
Together these three systems send and receive signals from the brain and the gut. Different factors, like stress, have an effect on how this system functions. For example, just the thought of eating food is strong enough to send a signal from the brain to the gut to start producing digestive enzymes before your next meal. Remember that feeling of butterflies in your stomach before a date or feeling nauseous before a presentation? That is the gut-brain axis hard at work relaying signals from your brain to your gut!
It is crazy to think that mood changes can affect our gut health and overall homeostasis. That’s why it is so important to listen to your body and take care of your gut! One of our favorite ways to take care of our guts is by taking daily probiotics. What makes our probiotics so special? We include pre- and postbiotics in addition to probiotics! This powerful trio helps fuel and flourish the good bacteria in your gut. Click here to shop probiotics!
Chandran S, Raman V, Manohari S. The gut-brain connection: a qualitative review of the conceptualization and implications of the gut-brain-microbiome axis.Telangana J Psychiatry. 2019;5(2):94-103.
Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli M, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastronterology. 2015;28 (2): 203-209.
Harvard Health Publishing. The gut-brain connection. Healthbeat. 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection