The Gut-Brain Connection - The Relationship Between the 'Two Brains'
Do you know that your gut is your 'second brain' which works hand-in-hand with your central brain? It is scientifically proven that the gut-brain connection is real.
"How?" you may ask.
Think of the fluttery sensations' butterflies' in your stomach when you think of someone you love or anything exciting you are anticipating to happen. Most people weigh situations and make judgments through gut feelings.
Whether right or wrong to center your judgment on your gut feeling, the fantastic factor is that your brain and gut have a unique connection. The two parts of your body communicate through the gut-brain axis (GBA).
What is the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA)?
You can define the gut-brain axis as the relationship between the gut or the intestines and the brain. It is the passage of signals between the gut and the central nervous system through biochemical signaling.
The gut contains a specific nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS), which controls the digestive movement. Even with its nervous system, the gastrointestinal system (gut) relies on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) for most of its operations.
The Vagus Nerve - The Gut-Brain Link
The vagus nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system. It connects the gut to the brain creating a pathway for the brain-gut-microbiota axis.
Your nervous system includes the central nervous system consisting of the brain and the spinal cord. The nervous system also includes the peripheral nervous system, which makes up a good part of the body's nerves. The peripheral system is further divided into other smaller orders, the somatic nervous system or voluntary nervous system, which serves the skeletal system by controlling movements. The second smaller system is the autonomic system, which enables involuntary actions.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates the functions of internal organs, one being the gastrointestinal system.
Gut-Brain Connection Through Microbiome
The topic of the microbiome has raised curiosity among researchers. The benefits of the microbiome in metabolism and brain health are among the latest discussions by scientists and other interested parties.
Your gut is an ecosystem of good bacteria called gut flora or microbiome and hence playing the host to millions of such bacteria. The microbiome is the link to the gut-brain axis.
Your brain and microbiome depend on each other in their normal activities. For instance, the negative response of the microbiome in your gut can affect your brain's chemical and behavior, such as feeling stressed or depressed.
Lower levels of some types of gut bacteria such as Dialister and Coprococcus could lead to depression. Also, coprococcus is biologically connected with a dopamine neurotransmitter that prevents major depressive disorders (MDD).
Clostridium sporogenes is another type of microbiome which produces a unique acid-containing neuroprotective antioxidant. The chemical can protect you against Alzheimer's disease and cerebral ischemia.
On the other hand, the brain through the gut-brain axis can impact and influence your microbiome growth and balance. Mental issues such as stress can disrupt the gut flora balance through signals by the vagus nerve. It can then increase the risk of infectious or inflammatory diseases of the gut.
The gut-brain axis then includes the microbiome to link both the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system.
The lymphatic system carries the enteric microbiota hormonal biochemical to release into your blood system—the biochemical in the blood system target and benefit other body tissues and organs, including your brain.
Also, some microbial metabolites such as tryptophan, secondary bile acids (2BAs), and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) can mediate and influence your brain functions and responses. Your gut microbiota, therefore, mediates mental behavior, cognition, and moods.
Gut-Brain Connection Through Neurotransmitters
Your gut is the 'second brain' that serves the gastrointestinal system (GI) using the enteric nervous system (ENS). Although the central nervous system is involved in the functions of the digestive system, ENS is the primary nervous system for the GI.
The enteric nervous system operates through neurons that control your gastrointestinal motor functions and regulates GI enzymes secretion. The neurons use neurotransmitters as messengers in transmitting neurons signals.
You may associate the neurotransmitters with "fight or flight" responses, but they go beyond that. They perform other significant roles in your body, such as maintaining homeostasis in your gastrointestinal (GI) system and especially in your gut.
The four neurotransmitters, dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), serotonin, and epinephrine, are monoamine neurotransmitters. They regulate your mental activities such as moods, emotions, and cognitive functions, like the ability to learn, memory, and attention.
Another useful neurotransmitter-like acid known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is highly influential in mental health.
In the past, it was known that the neurotransmitters were located only in the central nervous system. But, recently, and after some more research, scientists have realized that your gut inhabits several neurotransmitters, and among them, the four mentioned neurotransmitters and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
Some gut microbiomes modulate the production of neurotransmitters and the reason they inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.Gut-Brain Connection Through Hormones
Your gut communicates with your brain through hormones. Some hormones initiate signals on your eating process.
The hormone leptin is an adipose tissue hormone that sends signals to the hypothalamus (brain part). One of the leptin hormone's functions is to regulate the amount of food intake by sending signals to your brain to either eat or to stop eating
The hypothalamus then controls how much you eat by the amount of leptin in the blood. The higher the leptin, the higher the fat is in the fat cells, and vice versa. When the fat is low, the brain stimulates the need to eat.
On the other hand, another hormone called ghrelin, also known as the 'hunger hormone,' stimulates your brain to increase appetite, slow metabolism, and signals the body to decrease burning fat. When you are hungry, the ghrelin levels in the bloodstream increase, and after meals, the levels go down.
Enteroendocrine cells (EECs) are responsible for the release of gut hormones, which are the pathway for gut-brain communication.
Gut-Brain Connection Through Immune System
The role of the immune system is to defend your body against pathogen attacks. Immune cells such as lymphocytes, NK, macrophages, and dendritic cells are involved in the immune system defense against such body health enemies.
Your gut, as discussed earlier, plays the role of hosting millions of healthy bacteria or microbiome. The good bacteria are involved in immune cell development.
The body defense cells (lymphocytes and dendritic) are known to produce dopamine neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Dopamine then works as autocrine or paracrine signals for the immune cells.
Therefore, dopaminergic mechanism plays a significant role in linking the central nervous system to the immune cells and hence including the immune system to the gut-brain axis.
There is ongoing research on treating cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, schizophrenia by modifying the immune system using dopamine chemicals.
The gut-brain connection is a system like any other in your body and, therefore, prone to diseases. The relationship between the two organs is so intimate that one troubling part can affect the other part. Some of the disorders are:Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disease that has a connection to the gut. An imbalance of your gut microbiome can lead to brain chemicals imbalances as well. Some of the brain chemicals imbalances such as glutamate and dopamine connected to your gut can lead to schizophrenia.
Mental disorder can alter your emotions and behavior. Some of the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, dysfunctional or abnormal motor behavior, and speech impairment.Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is among the chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The condition causes chronic inflammation to your bowels' innermost lining, leading to ulcerated sores.
Anxiety, stress, and depression are cognitive disorders that can trigger inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) due to gut-brain connection. Also, IBS can worsen said cognitive disorders as a reverse role.Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive disorder of the nervous system. The condition causes tremors, which then affects movement.
The relationship between Parkinson's disease to the gut is real. Various studies and researches have reported the disease to originate from the gut. In "The Gut and Parkinson's Disease: Hype or Hope?" review, Dr. Filip Scheperjans, Ph.D., links Parkinson's disease to gut health. He concurs to the evidence that Parkinson's disease originates from some gut changes in structural and functions due to neural structures.
Such changes can cause early signs that could show the onset of Parkinson's disease diagnosis before the motor or movement symptoms set it.
The many symptoms of gut structural and functional changes precede the primary motor symptoms such as tremor leading to late diagnosis.
Other Parkinson's disease symptoms include:
- Stooping posture or balance problems
- Painful and stiff muscles
- Slowed and difficult movement
- Slow or slurred speech
Autism, until recently, has been associated with brain development, which then affects communication and social behavior. A patient of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), another name for Autism, encounters challenges in social interaction and development of the primary social skills.
According to Science Daily, "People with autism often suffer from gut problems." Scientists are now diverting attention from linking Autism to the brain, but to explore the connection between the disease and the enteric nervous system.
One Professor Hill-Yardin of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology confirms that both gut and brain share gene mutations related to Autism. That is why autism patients often complain of gut problems.
The shared gene mutation affects both brain and gut health leading to Autism. Signs and symptoms of Autism include:
- Delayed milestone or development delays
- Language comprehension challenge
- Poor eye contact
- Delayed learning
- Abnormal facial expressions and body postures
- Flat speech
Some of the gastrointestinal health issues on Autism patients are diarrhea, bloating, constipation compared to their siblings or friends. Such GI problems confirm that the disease is related to both brain and gut health conditions.Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia disorder that progresses and degenerates. The brain cells of an Alzheimer's patient waste away slowly to worsen the condition. As the brain cells continue to decline, the cognitive ability declines as well.
Intestinal good bacteria, microbiome share a significant part in Alzheimer's disease by depositing amyloid in the bloodstream. The amyloid can then gain entrance through the brain-blood barrier to the brain.
The critical fact of Alzheimer's disease is the plaque buildup from the collection of amyloid in the brain. The amyloid settles between the brain neurons to build plaque.
A membrane of lipopolysaccharides, a bacterial cell, can also find its way inside your bloodstream to cross the blood-brain barrier leading to brain inflammation. The brain inflammation can also activate Alzheimer's disease.
Some early signs of Alzheimer's disease can alert you of the disease onset. Some of the first symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Impaired thinking and reasoning
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Mood swings and behavioral changes
- Changes in personality
- Wandering aimlessly
The one good side of Alzheimer's disease is that it preserves one's skills even as the disease progresses and degenerates. For instance, if the patient loved singing before Alzheimer's disease, the talent continues long after the condition.
Other gut-brain connection disorders are:
- Migraine headache
Some of the gut-brain axis related disorders directly connect to the unbalanced gut microbiome. Any microbiome alteration can lead to gut inflammation due to the overreacting of the immune system. As your gut gets distressed, so does your brain through related messages via the vagus nerve connection.
Gut-Brain Connection Complementary and Alternative Therapy
There are various alternative treatments for Gut-Brain health issues. However, you may require consulting your health practitioner for the best therapy and advice. The following are some of the recommendations from our natural health practitioner, Yvonne Dollar Perc. Leaky Gut can affect the heart because it affects the blood.
Live Blood Analysis (Microscopy)
We do Live Blood Analysis and look at dry blood samples specifically.
Observed in Layer(s):
A cluster of round white holes in the center of the sample. The cluster implies bowel challenges that may include bowel inflammation (colitis, enteritis), Candida, leaky gut syndrome, strictures, diverticula, or irritable bowel syndrome. The presence of bowel patterns indicates that supporting the digestive system is a high priority.
The second and third images show the result in the blood when the gut health is compromised and healthy.
We recommend these three products below in tandem to support the gut-brain connection.
DNA Health Testing
We also do DNA health testing, which could help detect this potential and many others. If you are concerned that you might have the possibility, then give us a call, and we can set up a DNA health assessment test. The Gene FUT2 is a key factor in Heart Health especially with Homocysteine Levels
Key Genes: FUT2
Vitamin B12 or FUT2 rs602662
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE FUT2 GENe?
FUT2 gene encodes an enzyme known as galactoside 2-alpha-L-fucosyltransferase 2.
FUT2 is important for producing the important prebiotic 2'-fucosyllactose (2'-FL). 2'-FL is important for gut bacteria health. A healthy bacteria called Bifidobacterium is required for a Healthy Gut.
Profound Support for Your Gut/Brain Connection
UltraBiome DTX - UltraBiome DTX improves critical gut and intestinal function and primes detoxification pathways to help the body target and eliminate toxins. It also fuels the growth of healthy bacteria, supporting microbiome balance and healthy intestinal permeability, by strengthening and tightening the gut's cellular wall.
Bacillus Coagulans Probiotics NutriBiome (90 Caps) - Bacillus Coagulans is a strain of friendly probiotic that is naturally heat-stable. It can also more readily withstand the stomachs' acidic environment, thereby better providing targeted support to the intestine and maintaining balance in the microbiome.
Protein Digestive Aid, 180 Tabs – Protein Digestive Aid supplements the body's own digestive secretions. It is designed to help individuals break down and better digest proteins.Conclusion
It is now clear that your gut is connected to your brain. Therefore, it is essential to keep both organs healthy to avoid gut-brain related diseases. Some of the disorders are chronic, acute, or hard to treat.
Be on the lookout for any symptoms of the gut-brain related disorders to start treatment as early as possible. You can also arrange for periodic medical checkups to arrest any disease before getting worse.
Do you want to know about your health? Visit us at Island Healthworks Natural Clinic for a thorough checkup using the latest technology. You can also contact us now by filling out the questionnaire or using Tel No. +250-468-7685. We are pleased to serve you or attend to any of your concerns.
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Editor: Yvonne Dollard Perc
Research Assistant: Elizabeth Njuguna
Designer: Sherry Robb
To learn more, contact Yvonne Dollard Perc at Island Healthworks. Yvonne offers phone consultations where she will develop an individualized health care program and lifestyle plan tailored to your specific needs through a personal health and lifestyle analysis.
Call 250-468-7685 to speak with Yvonne and set up a phone consultation!
Yvonne offers in-person consultations with assessment of your specific needs, health and lifestyle coaching, and the best of integrative natural health care. To book your in person consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.