The Gut-Brain Axis: How They Connect and How Nutrition Supports It
The science of food and micronutrients has advanced to previously unseen levels in recent years, and much of this advancement has come in the area of gut health.
The focus on gut health is especially warranted considering how many different aspects of human health it affects, including our mental health to our brain health, healthy weight maintenance, metabolic health and much more.
The gut also impacts immunity (especially important for the fall and winter months), inflammation, or lack thereof, our ability to experience deep and restful sleep, anxiety, and our mental clarity on a day-to-day basis.
How the Brain and Gut are Connected
The brain and the gut are connected in several ways, most notably through the vagus nerve.
This large tube connects the brain to the gut and sends signals back and forth in both directions.
When we experience times of stress, our vagus nerve function is inhibited, which may cause gastrointestinal problems.
Reduced activity in the vagus nerve, a phenomenon referred to as vagal tone, has been linked with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as Crohn's disease, two of the most feared and debilitating digestive disorders.
Our brain and gut are also connected through the rest of our neural networks.
Neurons and neurotransmitters are among the substances that pass through these networks.
Neurons, also called nerve cells, are part of your brain, gut and central nervous system, which tells the body how to behave.
Neurotransmitters are chemical compounds released by neurons that allow them to send messages and communicate with each other on a moment-to-moment basis.
The brain typically contains about 100 billion neurons, while the gut contains 500 million neurons.
Among the most well-known neurotransmitters are serotonin, which contributes to feelings of satisfaction, and dopamine, the “reward chemical.”
The more high-quality micronutrients you consume, the stronger your brain and gut health connection will become, as these provide the building blocks for improved brain, nervous system and gut health.
Reducing inflammation by cutting stress out of your day and improving your diet add up over time.
If you have any of the following issues, your gut-brain axis connection may be at risk, and medical tests and/or doctor-recommended diet and lifestyle changes are highly recommended.
Key issues to look out for include:
- Stress, especially prolonged stress
- Iron deficiency, characterized by a feeling of anemia
- Thyroid issues
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- High levels of inflammation
- Sensitivity to common foods and/or poor dietary choices
- Addictive behavior or spending too much time on electronics or social media
- Sleep apnea
- Serious digestive issues
- Brain fog
- Medication side effects
If you have any of these or similar issues, it may be time to take a closer look at your gut-brain axis health and consider making changes or additions to your nutrition routine.
How Nutrition Impacts the Gut-Brain Axis
If your gut health has ever felt “off” to you, you probably remember it well.
These instances are often referred to as “feeling butterflies,” which can lead to an uneasy or unstable feeling in your gut health.
Typically during these times, our brain also loses its ability to remain as calm as it usually does, and our reasoning, thinking, and even our communication skills tend to go out the window as a result.
The key to restoring this balance is to get the brain and gut back and in sync, and that's where nutrition typically comes in.
Numerous studies have shown, for example, that the composition of your gut bacteria influences how your brain and nervous system function.
The right nutrition can either help or harm this connection — and most of the Standard American Diet (SAD) is only making things worse.
If you eat a low-fiber diet packed with white bread, desserts, cookies, cakes, fast food, and salty chips and other snacks, you won't give your body a chance to heal the vagus nerve-brain connection.
The Stakes Are High When It Comes to Healing Your Gut
Momentum matters as much as anything else when it comes to making healthy choices, and the stakes are high because, after all, health is our greatest wealth.
Evidence shows that dysbiosis, a term used to describe a scenario in which our gut microbiome becomes disrupted, may play a significant role in several different mental and neurological diseases.
When this condition takes root due to stress and poor food choices, the gut-brain connection becomes dysregulated, leading to a more porous barrier between the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Inflammation: Research show disruption in our gut health can lead to inflammation of the brain matter, which can lead to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease.
Weight gain: Research shows disruption in our gut health can lead to an increased craving for unhealthy, sugar foods, changes in our metabolism, satiety control while eating and poor food choices may result.
The good news is that consistent, healthy eating can help fortify the gut-brain axis, metabolism, digestion, and elimination in anyone who is willing to commit to eating the right foods.
The best foods for the gut-brain axis include those that are rich in fiber, which increases the bulk in your stool, promotes healthy bowel movements, blood glucose metabolism, aids with processing cholesterol, and reduces the time waste remains inside the intestines. According to the Institute of Medicine, only about five percent of people in the United States get enough fiber.
Foods rich in micronutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can also ensure that all body systems are running smoothly, including the gut, brain, nervous system, intestines, and other key organs that need specific nutritional support each day.
Consuming fiber and micronutrient-rich foods like the Healright Nutrition Bars from Healright for just two weeks has been shown to alter the human microbiome in countless beneficial ways, strengthening the gut-brain-connection.
Eating Healright bars every day for eight weeks is scientifically designed to fill in nutrition gaps while improving your metabolism and gut health.
To learn more or get started on your path to wellness, visit the Healright Shop by clicking on this link to get started today.