*This post is sponsored by Fortify but as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you supporting the brands that support Sincerely Onyi*
The Gut-Brain Axis: The Connection Explained
One of the biggest lessons I can take away from my degrees in medicine and nutrition is the power of nutrition. From our food to our supplements, we have the power to influence our health, straight from our gut. The gut-brain axis affects everything from general health to mood and how you handle stress.* I want to touch on why it’s important to keep the gut/brain connection in mind and how to manage it.
As I’ve begun to dive deeper into integrative psychiatry, I’ve been fascinated at the connection between our gut health and our mental health. All the research can get pretty in-depth – so let’s try to simplify it as I continue to bring you more helpful tips for your mental and physical wellness over time.
What Is The Gut-Brain Axis
The gut-brain axis (GBA) is the biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract (gut) and the central nervous system (brain).
In other words, the GBA is the way your gut and your brain communicate with each other and work together. This works at the chemical and hormonal levels.
The enteric nervous system (ENS) is made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract all the way from your esophagus to your rectum. The connection between the ENS and CNS is commonly called the gut-brain axis.
Whenever I talk about the gut-brain axis, I’ll use the acronym GBA and I’ll be referring to the ways in which the gut signals the brain and vice-versa.
Why Is The Gut-Brain Axis Important?
It’s important to understand the GBA because it affects so much more than just a stomach ache. An imbalance in your microbiome can be the influence of such things as a rash flare-up or even an unstable mood. Scientists continue to discover more ways that our gut health affects our mood and our overall well-being. Just look at some of these surprising connections.
Gut Health and Mood
Studies confirm that there is a connection between gut health and mood. In fact, neurotransmitters that are associated with mood are produced in the gut first. So are chemicals that support brain function.
Your gut health is connected to your brain health and therefore your general health.
Have you ever felt like you just have no energy but didn’t know why? Your gut health might be out of wack. Inflammation in your gut could be related to gut imbalance could be related to low mood and energy levels.
Gut Health And Stress Response
GBA is also important because the health of your gut might even influence your behavior and how you respond to stress. Ongoing stress can negatively impact the good and bad bacteria in your gut and therefore cause stronger physical reactions to the stressful situation.
Fortify Mood & Stress contains Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell® -52ND and Bifidobacterium longum Rosell® -175 that can help reduce stress.
Beyond your mental and emotional health, immune function in your body begins in your gut too. Studies show that specialized immune tissue called gastric Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) is found in your intestines.
It’s pretty impressive how important GBA is. Taking care of your gut health can have an extremely positive impact on your brain health and general
Serotonin and the GBA
Serotonin is a vitally important neurotransmitter, although some people regard it to be more of a hormone. It relays signals between nerve cells and is believed to play a role in mood, bone density, nausea, and can even inhibit sexual function. It’s known as the “happy chemical” because low levels of serotonin are related to depression and anxiety.
What does this have to do with GBA? Well, it is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin levels are made in the digestive tract.
Gut-Brain Axis and Low Mood
Common symptoms of depression such as fatigue and lack of feeling happy can be traced back to the GBA because when the gut is overrun with bad bacteria the gut and brain cannot communicate effectively. Levels of neurotransmitters in the body such as serotonin get out of balance.
According to Psychology Today, “More recent theories low mood suggest that an imbalance in gut microbiota and dysfunction in the axis connecting the gut and the brain may be involved.”
The Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis the combination and intertwining of the central nervous (CNS) system and the endocrine system (hormones). The HPA is also called the stress response system.
Gut microbiota imbalance may create conditions associated with low mood.. When the HPA-axis is dysregulated, too much cortisol (a stress hormone) is circulated throughout your body.
An imbalance in gut microbiota can produce less serotonin and GABA (a brain chemical involved in calming anxiety).
How Do You Support The Gut-Brain Axis
Now that you know how important maintaining a healthy gut is, how do you help it? How do you support gut balance which can influence emotional and general health?
There are two main ways to promote your gut health, and therefore, support your GBA – through diet and probiotics.*
Gut-Brain Axis Diet
The first way you can support your GBA is by changing how you eat. A recent study concluded that, “Recent studies support the connection between the quality of diet, gut microbiota and mental health through regulation of metabolic functions, anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic properties and the support of neurogenesis. Dietary coaching to improve mental health seems to be an additional, cost-effective, practical, nonpharmacological intervention for individuals with psychiatric disorders.”
In other words, what you eat can actually affect your gut health and therefore positively impact your general health.
What is the gut-brain axis diet?
There isn’t one specific diet that has been proven to be completely gut-healing for everyone, but the Mediterranean diet is one of the best ones. In this diet, people eat lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seafood. They reduce their intake of refined sugar and red and processed meat. In one study from Spain, people on the traditional Mediterranean diet were about half as likely to be diagnosed with depression over a 4-year period.
This is the one diet that has been shown to increase the diversity of gut bacteria the best.
Probiotics For Healthy Gut-Brain Axis
Another way to support your GBA is to simply take high-quality probiotics every day.
What are probiotics?
They are live bacteria and yeast that are good for your gut and you can usually find them in easy-to-digest pills.
When your gut has too many bad bacteria and not enough of the good ones, you can experience any combination of the things I told you about above. A probiotic like Fortify Probiotics supports digestive balance in the intestinal tract.*
Fortify Probiotics now contain the doctor-preferred probiotic strain for regularity*††. Which means it can help prevent occasional gas, bloating, and constipation.*
Taking probiotics every day will help your body maintain the bacteria that it needs to function optimally.
The gut-brain axis is responsible for so many things. From low mood and energy levels. to immune health and how we respond to stress, the bacteria in our gut affect all of it.* One of my most common recommendations in practice is Omega 3s, Probiotics and Vitamin D. We’ll continue to dive deeper into why but hopefully this has been an enlightening start to the wonder that is the Gut/Brain Axis.
Changing how you eat and taking probiotics are the most effective way to heal your GBA when it is imbalanced. Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter for wellness tips straight to your inbox.
†† Based on an IQVIA ProVoice survey of Primary Care Physicians, HOWARU® B. lactis HN019 is the Doctor preferred probiotic strain for Regularity as compared to other strains in leading Probiotic brands, 52-week sales MULO, ending 11/3/2019; December 2019.*”\
Along with the usual DSHEA, “*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.