Your Gut-Brain Connection is the Key to Optimal Wellness
At Brookview Wellness, we are constantly promoting gut health as the foundation of our functional medicine model. The status of the microbiome in your gastrointestinal system and what food you choose to consume are crucial for optimal health and an overall feeling of well-being. What many of our patients come to learn as they advance in our programs is that your gut-brain connection and health go hand-in-hand.
What is the Gut-Brain Axis?
Your brain and gut are connected through a complex system known as the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is bidirectional, meaning the information travels both ways, like a highway. This communication pathway includes your central nervous system and your enteric nervous system, which is the nervous system of your digestive tract.
The gut-brain connection axis allows the brain and gut to communicate with each other through various pathways, including hormonal, neural, and immune signaling. For example, when you eat food, the gut sends signals to the brain via the vagus nerve, which is a major neural pathway that connects the gut and brain. These signals can influence your mood, behavior, and cognition depending on what you ate and how your body responds to that particular food.
When the information travels the other way on the gut-brain axis, the brain then influences the condition of your gut. Stress, for example, can lead to changes in gut function and increase the risk of gastrointestinal disorders. This is because the brain can send signals to the gut that alter gut secretion, motility, and sensitivity.
Why Does the Gut-Brain Connection Matter?
This connection means that what you eat can affect your emotional balance, how you respond to stress, your brain health, and your cognitive abilities. When your gut health is poor, it causes a condition called “leaky gut.” This condition then passes neurotransmitters to your brain that can cause inflammation and brain fog.
If you have depression, mood issues, hormone imbalances, or autoimmune disease – everything goes back to the gut – and we mean everything!
Here are some important highlights of how the gut-brain axis can affect your health and wellness:
Your Mood: The gut produces more than 90% of the body’s serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. The gut also produces other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and GABA, which can affect your emotional state and stability.
Your Immune System: The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microorganisms play an important role in regulating the immune system, protecting against pathogens, and producing vitamins and other nutrients. They are tiny but VERY important for optimal health. An imbalance in the gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, can lead to chronic inflammation and contribute to various illnesses and disorders.
Your Stress Response: The gut is intimately connected to your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is the body’s stress response system. This connection is home to the “fight or flight” feeling you get when things get intense. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota and impair gut function, leading to digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Your Metabolism: The gut microbiota plays a critical role in regulating metabolism by influencing the absorption and storage of nutrients. Dysbiosis can lead to metabolic disorders, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Your Cognitive Function: The gut produces a number of hormones and peptides that can affect cognitive function and memory. Additionally, your gut microbiota produces metabolites that can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function.
So you can see why we are so serious about your bio-individual nutrition around here!
Restoring and maintaining a healthy gut, and therefore a healthy gut-brain axis is absolutely vital to your success in optimizing your health. If you are interested in learning more about healing your gut, schedule a Discovery Call with Dr. Brooke to get started.