The Gut-Brain Connection: Benefits for your Health
Updated: May 26, 2020
Although it sounds incredible, your intestine can contain more than 500 million neurons, which are closely connected to your brain through the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in charge of connecting all the components of the digestive system with your brain and sending signals in both directions. This nerve combines different components of the digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems (the esophagus, larynx, trachea, bronchi, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestine) with the brain.
This connection is better known as the brain-gut axis and is used to describe the communication network between both systems.
Your intestine can produce up to 90% of the "happiness hormone"
The brain and gut are connected by neurotransmitters, known to control feelings and emotions in the brain. Some of these transmitters are produced by the cells of the intestine and the gut microbiota (millions of digestive microbes that live in the intestine).
The digestive microbes send signals to the brain through the vagus nerve to generate responses that promote specific eating behaviors. This stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Currently, there are several studies that link the gut microbiota with eating behavior.
The gut microbiota can also produce GABA, an important neurotransmitter responsible for controlling feelings of fear and anxiety. Some types of probiotics specialize in creating the ideal intestinal conditions to increase the production of this neurotransmitter and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The importance of taking care of our "second brain"
During stressful situations, the intestine reduces its blood flow to send extra energy to the brain, causing the protective mucosa of its membrane to weaken, leading to a significant reduction in its functions.
The digestive bacteria approach the weakened gut membranes and produce chemical substances that generate inflammation, causing digestive disorders, discomfort, and changes in the gut microbiota, altering the gut-brain axis.
The Gut-Brain Connection: How does it work?
A study from Harvard University showed that healthy eating habits create the ideal intestinal conditions for the gut microbiota to send specific signals and molecules to the brain, especially to astrocytes. These molecules can block certain inflammatory processes that occur in the brain and lead to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
Prevents anxiety and chronic stress taking care of your gut health
Due to recent research that shows us the close relationship between the gut and the brain, we can be more aware of the care we must take of our intestinal health to prevent states of anxiety and chronic stress.
We can also be aware that having good digestive health can decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases since changes in the microbiota are important for the brain.
Gut Health means maximum Well-being
Mindfulness and various stress reduction techniques can powerfully influence your gut and gut microbiota, facilitating physical and mental well-being.