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Gut-Brain Connection: How Gut Health Affects Mental Health

Do you experience butterflies in the stomach when you are tense?

The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to anger, anxiety, sadness, and elation and all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut. The bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and gut microbiota is called the gut-brain axis. Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves called the enteric nervous system or ENS also referred to as the “second brain”.

 

A person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. This is because both the brain and gut send signals to each other and they are intimately connected.

 


The ENS communicates with the brain through the nervous system and hormones. An exchange of information also takes place between the gut and the immune system, affecting overall mental health. Also, it is believed to contribute to diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, pain, and anxiety.


A person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. This is because both the brain and gut send signals to each other and they are intimately connected. The gut-brain axis is involved in a multitude of physiological processes including satiety, food intake, regulation of glucose and fat metabolism, insulin secretion and sensitivity, and bone metabolism. Early nutrition also appears to play a role in shaping the developing gut microbiota.

 

Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves called the enteric nervous system or ENS also referred to as the “second brain”.

 

Studies found that breastfeeding was directly correlated with both IgA levels and the number of organisms in the Bifidobacterium genus present in the gut and indirectly correlated with IL-6 levels.


Many people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today.


The relationship between gut microbiota and diet continues throughout life. Diet alterations can have a significant impact on gut bacterial composition in as little as 24 hours.

Probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance, and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.


Reference:

● Ajit Kumar Thakur et al (2014), Gut-Microbiota and Mental Health: Current and Future Perspectives, Journal of pharmacology and clinical toxicology https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260249277_Gut-Microbiota_and_Mental_Health_Current_and_Future_Perspectives

● Megan Clapp et al (2017), Gut Microbiota’s Effect on Mental Health: The Gut-Brain Axis, Clinics and practice, DOI:10.4081/cp.2017.987

● Jane. A. Foster et al (2016), Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome, Neurobiology of stress, vol 7, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.03.001


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