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Does brain and tummy secretly communicate with each other ?

Updated: May 9, 2023

It isn’t a joke, do you think that your brain and tummy talk together ?

The short answer is : yes, they do.

Think how you react for to a stressful situation, are you endlessly munching on snacks or maybe opposite – your stomach tightens and you can’t have a bite ?

It’s a great example of gut – brain communications. This communication is called the ‘gut – brain axis’.

This communication happens via 3 different channels:

• Through the nervous system

• Through the immune system

• Through hormones

Communication though the nervous system

This channel includes The Vagus Nerve (The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain)– neurons in your tummy trigger reactions in your limbic system, which is responsible for our emotions. This engagement is two-way, the limbic system can also send messages to our gut - so very often when we are stressed have digestion problems.

As a part of gut-brain communication the microbiome (microorganism lives in your digestive system) in your intestine can directly produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that transmit signals between synapses in your brain and nervous system.

Researchers have conducted studies that suggest changes to the gut microbiome may be linked to psychological symptoms—such as anxiety and depression. This potentially can be very helpful for people suffering from depression, where with a diet full of fiber (which boosts production of good bacteria in your gut) we are able to fight off depression

Communication through the immune system

Our gut constitutes about 70% of the immune system, it’s the largest immune organ in the body.

The work of turning food into fuel is done by 40 trillion “good guy” gut bacteria. They determine when we feel hungry and how we store fat, communicate with our brain to regulate our moods, and what is especially important, is that they help fight off disease.

There is also a link between gut bacteria and what we eat with inflammation. If your immune system is switched on for too long, it can lead to inflammation, which is associated with a number of brain disorders like depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Communication through hormones

Hormones produced in the gut are released into bloodstream and directly affect our nervous system. The Gut – Brain Axis also covers interference with our Tryptophan metabolism - approximately 95% of our serotonin produced in the gut. Serotonin is believed to help regulate mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. There may also be a link between serotonin and depression.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of protein, which is a precursor of serotonin. Your body changes tryptophan into a brain chemical called serotonin (the hormone of happiness).

Perfect solution products with high tryptophan to protein ratio include sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Your gut microbes produce lots of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) (butyrate, propionate and acetate).They make SCFA by digesting fiber (a whole food plant based diet = plenty of fibre). SCFA affect brain function in several ways, such as reducing appetite.

So what we can do to improve the quality of brain- gut communication?

The most powerful change is to diversify and increase the bacteria in your gut. The easiest way to do it is to try a whole food plant based diet. This contain fiber that boosts the gut microbiome and metabolic health but also antioxidants and all the important nutrients.

Try to increase consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, reduce or eliminate highly processed foods and sugar.

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