The gut is one of the most integral parts of the body. It is connected to, or involved with, nearly every bodily system and process. The gut helps produce healthy cholesterol to promote heart health, makes up approximately 75% of the body’s immune system, and helps with weight regulation along with many other bodily functions. With that being said, people often forget about the critical role the gut plays in brain health.
The gut influences the brain through both hormones and nerve connections. Therefore, the state of the gut greatly impacts the state of the brain.
Below we outline the ways in which the gut impacts the brain and how to promote brain health through restoring and supporting gut health:
The Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is a crucial aspect of the gut and it consists of about 1,000 species of bacteria in a “pocket” of the large intestine called the cecum. This microbiome is responsible for helping produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone). In fact, 95% of serotonin is made in the gut. Thus, the gut microbiome helps aid in the process of producing necessary chemicals in the brain, which help improve your mood and overall mental wellness.
Studies show that gut health may be linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. More specifically, researchers are considering the impact of specific gut bacteria on depression and anxiety. There was a study of over 1,000 individuals experiencing depression or considered themselves to have a low quality of life. Results showed that depressed participants were more likely to be missing two specific types of bacteria in their guts: Coprococcus and Dialister. Therefore, imbalances of bacteria in the microbiome can potentially harm the body’s hormonal and mental functions.
Although it may seem strange, the gut and the endocrine system are deeply connected. In fact, part of the gut is defined as the estrobolome, a collection of bacteria in the gut responsible for metabolizing and modulating the body’s estrogen levels. The relation between the estrobolome and other gut bacteria can impact the body’s estrogen levels, which in turn can impact weight, libido, and mood. Mood specifically is impacted because estrogen acts on the part of the brain that helps control emotion. Estrogen can increase serotonin levels and increase the number of serotonin receptors in the brain. Estrogen is also known to be involved in the production and the effects of endorphins (“feel-good” chemicals in the brain). Additionally, estrogen helps protect nerves in the brain from damage and there is evidence that suggests estrogen can help stimulate nerve growth.
Furthermore, the gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves, meaning the gut microbiome has the ability to affect the brain by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves. Studies have even shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to the control group.
Supporting Your Brain Through Your Gut
There are a variety of ways to support your gut including:
Eat a diverse range of foods: This can lead to a diverse microbiome, which is an indicator of good gut health. Legumes, beans, and fruit contain lots of fiber and can promote the growth of healthy bacteria.
Eat fermented foods: Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir all contain healthy bacteria and can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut.
Take a probiotic supplement: Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the gut to a healthy state after dysbiosis. HoltraCeuticals’ UltraBiotic 100 has been formulated to replenish the “good” bacteria in the stomach that allows the body to rid itself of pathogens, such as Candida (yeast), and supports optimal gastrointestinal health.
Eat prebiotic foods: Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. Prebiotic-rich foods include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oats, and apples.
Limit intake of artificial sweeteners: There has been evidence suggesting that artificial sweeteners like aspartame increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Eat whole grains: Whole grains contain lots of fiber and beneficial carbohydrates like beta-glucan, which the gut microbiome uses to help the body regulate weight, cancer risk, diabetes, and other disorders.
Eat foods rich in polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds broken down by the microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth. They can be found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, and olive oil.
Valuing your brain health is a critical part of wellness and supporting your gut health is one of the best ways to do so. Learn more about the importance of the gut.