Updated: Jul 9
The Brain-Gut Connection: A Science-Based Approach to Balancing Your Happiness
What is the Gut-Brain Connection?
The gut-brain connection is the communication pathway between the central nervous system (CNS) and the enteric nervous system (ENS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, while the ENS consists of nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. Together, they make up what’s known as the neuroendocrine system.
The gut-brain connection is a two-way street. It starts in the gut, where 70 percent of your immune system lives. When you eat something that your body doesn’t agree with—like processed foods or foods that you’re intolerant to—your immune system kicks into overdrive to fight off the offending substance. This can lead to inflammation, which has been linked to every major disease. So, if you’re eating a diet that promotes inflammation, it’s no wonder that you may feel tired, anxious, or even depressed.
The brain-gut connection refers to the trillions of bacteria living in a symbiotic relationship with the human body. The word microbiome describes this collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms living in our gut.
The gut-brain axis, also known as the enteric nervous system, describes the communication between your gut and your brain. It turns out that 90% of serotonin, famous for its role in anxiety, happiness, and sleep, is made in the gut, not in the brain!
So, what does this mean? It means that changing how you feed your gut bacteria can lead to changes in your mood!
Your Brain Is Hardwired to Your Gut!
The gut-brain axis describes the communication between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. This communication is bidirectional, meaning that it can work in both directions.
For example, when you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones that travel through your bloodstream and gut. This causes your gut to secrete certain chemicals that can affect how you feel and behave.
This connection between the brain and gut is so important that people who suffer from chronic stress often have troubledigesting food properly and may experience bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
· Stress can cause digestive problems by increasing our sensitivity to pain signals from our guts.
· If you suffer from chronic stress or anxiety, you may also experience heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux.
· These conditions are usually caused by increased stomach acid secretion due to abnormal muscle contractions within the digestive tract.
The condition of your gut can also affect your mood and mental health. For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than people without IBS. Researchers believe this is because of an imbalance in the gut microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut. An imbalance in gut bacteria has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even anxiety and depression.
The Connection Between Gut Health and Depression
Scientists know that the gut has a nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS). More than 100 million neurons within it help regulate digestion by sending signals to hormone cells in the gut wall called endocrine cells.
This communication between your gut and brain helps regulate emotions like anxiety, stress, depression, and irritability.
Depression is a complex mental disorder that can be caused by a variety of factors. Environmental factors such as stress, trauma, or grief can lead to depression. There may also be a genetic component to depression—if someone in your family has depression, you may be more likely to experience it yourself. However, recent research has begun to unravel another potential cause of depression: an unhealthy gut.
Studies have shown that there is a strong link between gut health and mental health. In fact, some scientists believe that the gut may be the "second brain." The second brain refers to the enteric nervous system (ENS), a network of nerves in the gastrointestinal tract that regulates digestive functions. This second brain has a direct connection to the brain via the vagus nerve—the longest nerve in the body.
This connection between the gut and the brain means that what happens in the gut can affect the brain—and this includes mental disorders like depression. In fact, scientists believe that an imbalance in gut bacteria may play a role in causing depression. For example, one study found that people with major depressive disorder had different levels of certain types of bacteria in their guts than people without depression.
The Brain-Gut Connection and Anxiety
One reason so many people deal with anxiety is the brain-gut connection. The gut houses all the bacteria needed to keepyour body healthy, but when you're stressed out or anxious, these bacteria become more aggressive toward each other and your gut lining.
This causes inflammation in your intestines, triggering bloating, constipation, or diarrhea symptoms.
How the Gut-Brain Connection Affects Pain Sensitivity
There are two types of pain receptors in the body—nociceptors and mechanoreceptors. Nociceptors are sensitive to hot, cold, or overly forceful stimuli while mechanoreceptors respond to things like light touch or changes in pressure. A 2006 study found that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have an increased number of nociceptors in their gut which may explain why they are more sensitive to pain than people without IBS.
Interestingly, it’s not just an increase in nociceptors that makes people with IBS more sensitive to pain. The way that the brain processes information from nociceptors may also play a role. A 2014 study found that people with IBS have a lower threshold for when their brain starts to process information from nociceptors as painful stimuli. In other words, the brain begins to interpret information from nociceptors as painful sensations sooner in people with IBS than those without IBS.
When there's a perceived threat or danger, like a wound, illness, or threatening situation, the brain sends signals to the gut to modulate its activity.
When stressed out or worried, our digestive system is less efficient at breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. Ifwe're anxious, it can also mean that we're more likely to experience digestiveproblems like diarrhea or constipation.
How to Fix the Brain-Gut Connection?
1. Rebalance Your Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract — both in your small intestine and colon (the large intestine).
These bacteria play an essential role in maintaining good health by helping to break down food into nutrients that can beabsorbed into your bloodstream, producing vitamins and other nutrients that support immune function, and keeping harmful bacteria under control.
2. Healthy Sleep and Stress Management
One of the best ways to manage stress is through changes in sleep habits. We all have our unique sleep patterns, but one sure thing is that we feel better when we get enough sleep.
This can mean different things for different people—some need more than others—but there are some tried-and-true tipsto help you get yours. Be sure to get enough sleep each night as sleep deprivation can negatively impact both gut and brain health.
3. Diet and Exercise
The next step toward better brain health is a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, ginger, greens, whole grains, leanprotein sources, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.
This diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce inflammation, which may improve symptoms of depression or anxiety.
4. Improve Your Gut Health
If you want to improve your gut-brain connection, start by eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as probiotic-rich fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. You should also avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbs, and unhealthy fats. In addition to following a healthy diet, regular exercise is also key for maintaining a healthy gut-brain connection. Exercise helps reduce inflammation throughout the body and balances levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
LivMor cold-pressed juices are an easy and delicious way to get your daily dose of fruits and vegetables. Our juices are made with fresh, organic ingredients and cold-pressed as it does not involve high heat which preserves their nutrients and vitamins.
Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods: Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your health, specifically your digestive health. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. You can also take probiotic supplements if you don't like fermented foods or if you want an extra boost. Probiotics help to improve gut health by restoring balance in the gut microbiome—the community of microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract.
Eat Prebiotic Foods: Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as food for probiotics—they essentially help probiotics thrive. Good sources of prebiotics include chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and oats. Like probiotics, prebiotics help to promote a healthy balance of microbes in the gut microbiome.
Reduce Inflammation: Inflammation can contribute to disruption in the delicate balance of microbes in the gut microbiome—and when that happens, it can lead to a whole host of problems including bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, anxiety, depression, skin problems like eczema or psoriasis—and even weight gain. There are a few different ways you can reduce inflammation:
• Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon), antioxidants (found in berries), and fiber (found in leafy greens)
• Exercising regularly
• Managing stress with yoga or meditation
• Getting enough sleep
• Taking an omega-3 supplement
We hope you've enjoyed this science-based review of the gut-brain axis and how it affects your overall well-being.
Suppose you're interested in learning more about biohacking, improving your health and wellness, mental health, relationships, or other factors affecting your happiness levels.
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