The gut-brain connection has been known for years, but we’re finally starting to understand the science behind just how they are connected. It’s not unusual to see anxiety and depression improve as we address digestive health, but it certainly surprises a lot of people when they experience it firsthand. Let’s explore the details.
The first basic connection is between nutrition and neurotransmitters. The basic concept is that we need a healthy digestive system to break down and absorb the nutrients which are building blocks for everything we need. Specifically in this case, neurotransmitters, which are basically hormones that signal different areas of our brain and nervous system to be more or less active.
Neurotransmitter imbalances can create problems ranging from feeling anxious or depressed, to trouble sleeping and severe issues like Parkinson’s disease. Without healthy digestion we can’t absorb the nutrients, without the right nutrients we can’t make neurotransmitters.
The microbiome is something we work with every day; it has multiple roles to play in relation to our mental function. The microbiome is our collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses and microbes that live on and in us. Microbiomes aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients, but also has a major impact on the production of neurotransmitters. Without a healthy balance of gut bacteria we simply aren’t able to produce as many neurotransmitters – which directly impacts how we feel and how we function.
Gut Brain Connections
The final connection is the direct connection between the brain and the digestive tract, which is to say hundreds to thousands of nerves connecting the two. In the past we assumed it was all a one way street of signals being sent to the digestive tract. We now see that we were wrong, and that many of the neurotransmitters in the digestive tract will send a signal back to the brain. This means there are a lot of beneficial signals being sent that we weren’t aware of in the past.
There are a lot of ways a healthy digestive tract benefits our health, just one of which is our mental state and function. If you have any questions or want to find out more about some of the lab testing to determine any digestive imbalances affecting your state of mind, give us a call at 916-951-9355.