Your gut and your brain are connected in a number of ways, both physically and biochemically. This connection is known as the gut-brain axis. Research shows that gut health affects brain health, and vice-versa. Here's what you need to know about the gut-brain axis to promote better functioning of your gut and your brain.
How the Gut and Brain Are Connected
Around 100 billion neurons reside in your brain. Neurons are cells that govern how your body behaves. Surprisingly, your gut contains around 500 million neurons, which connect to the brain through the nervous system.The vagus nerve is one of the biggest--and most important--nerves that connect your gut and brain. The vagus nerve sends signals in both directions. Animal studies show that stress interferes with the signals that are sent through the vagus nerve, causing gastrointestinal problems.
A study in humans found that irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease reduced vagal function, and a study in mice that were given a probiotic found reduced amounts of stress hormones in their blood. But when the vagus nerve was cut, the probiotic had no effect.
All of these studies show that the vagus nerve is a central figure in the gut-brain axis, and it's an important player in the stress response.
The Role of Neurotransmitters in the Gut-Brain Axis
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are produced in the brain and control feelings and emotions. For example, dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, while the neurotransmitter GABA produces feelings of calm and well-being. Serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and helps to control your internal clock.
Many of these neurotransmitters are also produced by the cells in your gut, including a large amount of the body's serotonin and GABA. Studies in mice show that some probiotics can increase the production of serotonin and GABA to reduce anxiety and depression and improve well-being.
Other Chemicals the Gut Produces That Affect the Brain
The trillions and trillions of microbes that call the gut home also make other chemicals that affect brain function. For example, they produce short-chain fatty acids, such as propionate, butyrate, and acetate, which improve brain health. Butyrate, in particular, has a profound beneficial effect on brain disorders including neurodegenerative diseases and psychological disorders, according to an article in the journal Neuroscience Letters.
Gut microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids, which produce other chemicals that affect the brain. Studies in mice show that stress and psychological disorders reduce the production of these bile and amino acids.
Gut microbes play an important role in the immune system, and an imbalance in the gut biome can cause inflammation, which can lead to brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease and depression.
Improving the Gut Biome
It's estimated that 90 percent of the cells in the human body are microbial in origin, comprised of 15,000 to 36,000 species of bacteria that reside in the gut. Improving the gut biome with probiotics can improve gut and brain health on many levels.
Probiotics are live bacteria that have numerous health benefits. Probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, and one study found that people who took a probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum for just six weeks enjoyed significant improvements in symptoms.
A daily probiotic helps to ensure a healthy gut biome and can reduce both gut problems and problems with brain function.
Foods for an Optimal Gut-Brain Axis
In addition to probiotics, a variety of foods benefit the gut-brain axis. The most important of these include:
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods like oily fish and some nuts. Omega 3s can increase good gut bacteria and reduce the risk of various brain disorders.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, cheese, and kefir, which contain numerous healthy microbes that can improve brain activity.
Polyphenol-rich foods like green tea, cocoa, olive oil, and coffee. Polyphenols increase healthy gut bacteria and improve thinking.
Tryptophan-rich foods like eggs, cheese, and turkey. Tryptophan is amino acid that is converted into serotonin.
High fiber foods like whole grains, seeds and nuts, and fruits and vegetables, which contain prebiotic fiber to improve gut bacteria and reduce blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Advanced Probiotic Complex Improves the Gut-Brain Axis
A daily probiotic goes a long way toward improving the gut-brain axis to reduce gastrointestinal woes and improve brain function. Every dose of Thrive Naturals Advanced Probiotic Complex contains 50 billion CFUs of 16 unique probiotic strains. Probiotics are safe and have no reported side effects. Just one to four weeks of taking our Advanced Probiotic Complex can produce noticeable improvements in gut and brain function.
In addition to a probiotic, a healthy diet helps you maintain a healthy, balanced gut microbe. Avoid overly processed foods, excessive alcohol, and foods high in fat to enjoy better health, better brain function, and fewer gastrointestinal problems.
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