What Is the Gut and Brain Connection? [Because You Need To Know]

Who’d have thought that the gut and brain are connected? What is the gut and brain connection? The medical world has been buzzing about the Gut-Brain connection in recent years. We’ll get into this connection and the communication that happens between the brain and the gut. I think you’ll find it fascinating as I have.

Then we’ll talk about what can be done about problems and how to help this connection work better. It also might explain some symptoms you’re having. We’ll wrap up with a summary and some potential ways to improve this connection.

My sources for research are Harvard Medical School, Ruairi Robertson, Ph.D. of Healthline and the U.S. Government’s repository of health information, National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. You will also find a TedTalks video of Robertson describing this connection below.

A Few Ways You Can Tell The Gut and Brain Are Connected…

We have used certain terms for years, like ‘gut-wrenching’ experience or ‘butterflies’ in the stomach. Harvard (n.d.) mentions these terms as a way to demonstrate we kind of know already our stomach is connected to our emotions. And hence, our brains. What is interesting is that one can affect the other. It’s not always one or the other affecting the other.

Those observations tell us it’s real. And now research has proven the gut and brain connection.

gut and brain connection

Bidirectional Communication

It turns out the gut and brain are connected through the central nervous system and the endocrine and immune systems. Scientists and doctors are calling it the ‘gut-brain axis’. Robertson in Healthline (2017) says that both are connected physically and biochemically, in several ways. The nervous system is a big one, as the vagus nerve (one of the largest nerves in the body) connects the brain and gut. Not only that, but the immune system also connects them biochemically. We’ll break these down next.

Nervous System and the Vagus Nerve

So the vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting the gut and brain and it functions as a two-way street. It is a big factor in how we feel and our moods. Also included in this discussion are neurotransmitters. Scientists discovered about 500 million neurons in the gut alone. These connect your gut to your brain along with the nervous system.

The gut produces one particular neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Side note: there is a supplement called GABA that calms the nervous system. It’s listed on the Nootropics page. GABA helps control feelings of anxiety. An increase in GABA keeps you calmer.

Some neurotransmitters are produced in the brain as well which control feelings and emotions. So you can see that one affects the other when neurotransmitters are produced in both places.

Affect on the Brain and Mental Health

gut health
The microbes in your gut produce many other chemicals that affect how the brain works. (Robertson, 2018).  Some reduce our appetite, some affect inflammation through our immune system. But it has been found that inflammation in the gut is related to several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. It is vital to understand this connection between the brain and the gut and also to know what you can do to help things work properly. We’ll get to that below. 🙂

Not only microbes, but hormones are released from the gut as well. In the body, all of the microorganisms are referred to as the Microbiome. In a particular part of the body, it’s referred to as the microbiota of the gut, or skin, or whatever the focus body function is.

Microbiome

It was found that our microbiome is developed initially in the womb. They researched pregnant women who took probiotics for a few weeks before birth (NCBI, 2017). The infants had a much better-developed microbiome than infants whose mothers didn’t take probiotics. This also shows that microbiota crosses the blood barrier. This microbiome in infants carries over into adult life. After the video, we’ll talk about pre and probiotics.

Some symptoms of mental anguish or problems could be from the gut. Or they could be starting in your brain and then affecting your gut. Are you feeling stressed from outside sources? It might be starting in your brain and affecting your gut. Are you feeling anxious without a ‘good reason’? It could be starting in your gut.

Here is a TedTalk video of Robertson discussing these developments in science. The video is from 2015, so a few years before his article:

Did you know that you can purchase probiotics with your FSA or HSA? You can!

Save $20 off orders over $250 at FSAstore.com! Promo Code: 20DEC (Valid 12/1 – 12/20. Cannot be combined and one time use. Brand exclusions apply.)What Is the Gut and Brain Connection? [Because You Need To Know] 2

Pre and Probiotics

Since we now know that gut bacteria (microbiota) affects brain health and ‘feelings’, we can discuss prebiotics and probiotics to help not only the gut but also the brain.

  • Prebiotics are just fuel for the [good] bacteria in the large intestine. Not doing a lot on their own, they just help the existing probiotics in the large intestine to thrive.
  • Probiotics are the bacteria that help digestion. When these are out of balance, that’s when you see stomach upset and possible brain upset.

Some people with irritable bowel syndrome and mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression took Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 for six weeks had significantly improved symptoms. Most probiotic supplements include this one.

Taking a probiotic could significantly help not only your gut but your brain and symptoms of anxiety and stress. It reduces inflammation in the gut and gives it the bacteria it needs (or replenishes) to help you feel great. This, in turn, helps your brain and moods. Anxiety and depression can be reduced. Some people even take a probiotic as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Best to talk to your doctor about this.

Probiotics also normalize cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that interacts with many cells in the body. With some cells, it lowers blood sugar, others it acts as an anti-inflammatory and still others, it helps with memory formation. 🙂

Prebiotics are fibers that are fermented by gut bacteria. They are useful in the small intestine where digestion is moving along after the stomach. Additionally, these are also available as a supplement to help the entire digestive tract.

Knowing what we know now, taking pre and probiotics is a no brainer. There isn’t a good reason not to. Moreover, the NCBI recommends people try probiotics instead of taking mood-altering medications. Ask your doctor. I’m including some links to what I consider good quality supplements to help you achieve your best gut health and brain health!

Click on the bottle for pricing and more information! 

Puritan's Pride Premium Probiotic 10-60 CapsulesWhat Is the Gut and Brain Connection? [Because You Need To Know] 1

The Gut-Brain Connection is Real

Many studies have been done to determine the connection between the gut and the brain is real. Further, more studies will be done so that scientists can understand more about it. Interestingly, it is said that the gut is the second mind, due to its neurotransmitter abilities and its ability to communicate (chemically) with the brain. Take good care of it!

I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new or reinforced things you’ve already heard or read. Please leave comments, questions or your experience or observations below! I’ll be sure to respond. Thank you!


What Is the Gut and Brain Connection? [Because You Need To Know] 4

References:

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. (n.d.). Retrieved 8/4/2019 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection

Robertson, R. (2018). The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-brain-connection#section2

U.S National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

Watson, K. (2017). Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?https://www.healthline.com/health/prebiotics-vs-probiotics

28 thoughts on “What Is the Gut and Brain Connection? [Because You Need To Know]”

  1. This is interesting information regarding the gut and brain connection. When I think about a connection between gut and brain I think mostly of hunger. I hadn’t considered that there are other connections through the nervous system. It’s good to know that taking a probiotic can help symptoms of anxiety and stress. Premium Probiotic 10 looks like a nice product that I’m looking forward to checking out through your link here. I agree that the connection between the gut and the brain is real. Great post!

    Reply
    • Thank you. I’m glad you became aware of this connection for your health! 🙂 Appreciate you reading and commenting. 

      Reply
  2. This is so interesting! When I’m very upset about something I always get a stomachache. When I’m  stressed, it often affects my gut. And now I know why. There is indeed a strong connection between the gut and the brain. It’s a good thing that scientists did research about that.

    I had no idea how depression was linked to inflammation of the gut. I’ve had that in the past, both inflammations and depressions, and I never saw a connection. I think I’m going to have a look at the probiotics. Although I am doing much better now, it doesn’t hurt to take them anyway, I think. Probiotics, in general, are good 🙂 And they have good prices.

    Your article is very well researched, and it had my full attention. I feel that I really learned something today.

    Reply
  3. The body and its complexities have always been fascinating to me. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and great information. 

    Your point makes perfect sense to me! I for one, will always go for a natural solution to any ailment before trying a pharmaceutical drug, especially when those drugs are mood and mind altering. If an issue of anxiety or depression can be remedied with something as simple as prebiotics or probiotics, why wouldn’t you try it first? 

    Out of curiosity, are there any natural sources of GABA that could supply the doses that would be necessary to correct an issue of anxiety or depression? Thanks again!

    Reply
  4.        Interesting article, I had heard something along these lines, in a television documentary, some years ago, that suggested that we had two brains in our body. One obviously in our skull, the other in our stomach. You explain the connection between the two, but  I was wondering if the stomach can act, in some circumstances, independantly from the brain in our skull.
                            With pre and probiotics, are they useful to take at any age, or should you always consult a doctor before taking them. Is there an age when they are more effective, or is your age irrelevant. The article is certainly thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it.
                                                             Ian

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Ian. You don’t need to consult a doctor for pre or probiotics. They occur naturally in the body but sometimes external forces (like antibiotics) and stress can affect the balance. It really helps to take these for regularity but also just for general health. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Excellent article,the Gut and Brain has great connection that could affect our health positively or negatively,I learned something valuable from this write-up,The infants had a much better-developed microbiome than infants whose mothers didn’t take probiotics,it means that the product has rich content, good quality supplements to help me achieve my best gut health and brain health,thanks for sharing,rock higher in online business.

    Reply
  6. It is true that the brain and the hits are interwoven and none can do without affecting the other when it comes to issues about our general well being. Sometimes, the body reacts to the brain and also, emotional reactions from the guts also affects the brain too. This is really nice to know of because I had been questioning on the reasons I feel certain way in my gut when I am experiencing somethings in my brain.

    Reply
  7. Its very true that the gut is connected to the brain, thanks to you for taking out time to put this amazing and useful article together. The connection of the gut and the brain seems to be a kind of tight and very visible, considering the way our stomach reaction affects our mood and emotions. Microbes that is produced in the guts reacts on the brain to perform some functions, this is another one. It’s nice to read through.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for this post on gut and brain connection, I don’t really know that there are some connections between our guts and brain until I am seeing this post , I really wanna ask a question about the gut and brain connection, if you are down in thinking or maybe life fails you, does your brain works with your guts to get stand to your feet again and face reality? or it’s just the guts work?? thanks 

    Reply
    • One affects the other. So if you brain isn’t doing well, you gut will probably not be happy either. Likewise, if your gut is happy, you brain will be happier. Thanks for the question. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Research should be appreciated for the good work it’s doing and for bringing to light some of the hidden fact about man and his body. Reading through this, I’ve been able to understand that there are lots of connections between the gut and the brain, the microbes, prebiotics and probiotics are all evident of this fact. This is a detailed article, and it has been useful.

    Reply
  10. Hi! Yeah, this is so interesting and good to know. The fact that our brain controls so much of our life is well known. But I didn’t know how equally important our gut is. And how much it affects our daily life. I must say thank you because you have completely changed the approach I had concerning my own body. This is cool indeed!

    Reply
  11. It’s cool to find these ways in which our gut and brain are connected. I hadn’t thought about it before. So now the expression, food for thought has a completely new dimension.

    This second brain topic is really interesting and you have awakened my curiosity. Thank you very much for this post!

    Reply
  12. the brain and the guts are interwoven when it comes to performance and the influence they have on each other. The brain may be affected by what the gut feels and also, when we get hurted, the gut too will be directly affected. THough not everybody believes in that but then, the very few like us who does will always advocate that. thanks 

    Reply
  13. When I think about the connection between the brain and the gut, the only thing I always think of is the emotional stress and now that I have read about it here and exactly what has caused all these, I feel that I am way more knowledgeable than my ignorant state earlier. This is really great to know of and I will like to make good use of this information by sharing it out to more people. Also, knowing about the use of probiotics is a thumbs up too. Thanks

    Reply
  14. The brain surely shares some certain connection with the guts but I would not have paid too much attention to that because of lack of knowledge in that area before. However, seeing all of these that you have shared here. I can only be thankful that you have shared all of these here. Really worthy of the read.

    Reply

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