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Our Gut is Our Second Brain: Gut Brain Axis 

March 09, 20243 min read

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Gut health has become one of the most popular topics, and for good reason. The research being done on all things gut health has been revolutionary. We are quickly discovering just how important of a role our gut plays in our overall health, physical and mental! 

Did you know that our gut microbiome is created when we are a fetus in our mother’s belly? This happens through vertical transmission. This means our mother’s microbiome is essentially passed on to us during development. We have these little gut bugs just chillin’ inside us before we even take our first breath of fresh air. That’s absolutely amazing to me. 

Those who suffer from leaky gut syndrome have increased gut permeability within the endothelial cells in our gut. This becomes an issue because when your gut has increased permeability, it’s letting toxins, antigens and “bad” bacteria into the bloodstream. This induces an inflammation response within our body so our bodies immune cells can fight off the bad stuff! When inflammation occurs chronically, there are a few issues that can arise here. The immune system of the host (person) will become compromised. Leaky gut can lead to the development of autoimmune disease and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety/depression. 

Leaky gut can impact the development of psychiatric disorders by elevated blood levels of cytokines that increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, enhancing the effects of rogue molecules from the permeable gut. When these molecules release they can influence miRNAs in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Both are heavily involved with psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Another way in which anxiety and depression can develop in relation to our guts is the “gut brain axis”. Our guts have their own nervous system where similar neurotransmitters that are found in our brain, are also produced in our guts. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and  acetylcholine. These neurotransmitters are important for promoting gut motility and an imbalance of these neurotransmitters can cause indigestion. Therefore, the connection between the brain and gut should be noted when considering treatment of psychiatric disorders. There is research currently being explored of utilizing probiotics as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Based on the research that by supplementing with probiotics, “good” bacteria you can improve your gut microbiome. The more good bacteria in your gut, the more neurotransmitters that would be produced. The bacteria in our gut are responsible for producing these neurotransmitters such as serotonin, in theory it makes sense as to why it could help with these psychiatric disorders. However, as of right now only some studies have found mild improvement in these disorders utilizing probiotics as part of treatment.

Although evidence may be lacking in using probiotics as a replacement for medication or other therapies, it doesn’t hurt. More and more research is being done on the connection between our gut and our brain for good reason! Other ways you can improve your gut health and microbiome is to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, fiber.  Doing things such as exercise regularly every week will help keep your gut microbiome healthy as well (more to come on that in a later article). Overall living a healthy lifestyle will help your gut bacteria thrive! 

TM Head Coach,

Kelly Igo, MS, RDN

Gut health Mental health Gut microbiome Leaky gut syndrome Inflammation Immune system Autoimmune disease Psychiatric disorders Anxiety Depression Blood-brain barrier Gut-brain axis Neurotransmitters Serotonin Acetylcholine Probiotics Treatment Research Fruits Vegetables Fiber Exercise Healthy lifestyle Microbiome Vertical transmission

Coach Kelly, MS, RDN

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