December 07, 2022 4 min read
Have you ever heard that the intestine is also called the second brain?
Whether it's butterflies in your stomach or your stomachwas tied in knots, you've probably had a situation where your gut is trying to tell you something. Experts have been investigating what really lies behind the gut-brain connection for years.
It is becoming more and more clear that the gastrointestinal tract and the brain communicate with each other. Our digestive system has an influence on how we think, feeling and acting. The communication between the stomach and the brain is even very intense and, above all, reciprocal. The intestine receives instructions from the brain and also sends signals there itself.
Find out how exactly the intestine, the brain and health are connected.
The communication between the gut and the brain is very complex. We have about 100 million nerve cells in our digestive tract. These nerve cells send signals back and forth between the brain and the intestines via the vagus nerve, a kind of nerve highway. Surprisingly, 90% of the communication comes from the gut and only 10% of the signals come from our brain.
And now pay special attention! Where do you think 90% of the happiness hormone serotonin is produced? That's right! In our intestines. Serotonin ensures that our brain receives a signal of happiness.
The intestinal microbiota also communicates with the brain. The bacteria found in the intestine are in intensive exchange with the intestinal mucosa. In the process, the intestinal bacteria form a variety of different substances that are recognised by the body and in this way also send information to the brain via intestinal-brain communication. For example, the intestinal bacteria have an influence on memory, emotions and regulate the perception of stress.
The gut-brain connection never breaks throughout life. Processes in the gut significantly influence our emotions, thoughts and cognitive performance. This happens through the release of certain neurotransmitters that can affect our mood. Thus, the gut can make us happy or sad, active or listless, and control our emotions like a second brain.
It is common knowledge that a healthy intestine is important to regulate digestion and prevent complaints such as constipation or digestive pain. But that is by no means all!
The gut can also contribute to mental health by sending messengers via the gut-brain axis. In fact, the health and function of the gut flora is important for brain health because it is home to about 70% of our immune cells. Some of these immune cells are necessary for gut-brain communication. So if the immune system is weakened, cognitive and memory performance can also suffer.
Studies are investigating the effect of antibiotics on the transmission of hormones, neurotransmitters and nerve impulses between the brain and the gut. Here, the connection between the gut, brain and health becomes particularly clear.
The administration of antibiotics, which are known to damage the intestinal flora, caused a slowdown in neurogenesis (formation of nerve cells in the brain) and limitation of cognitive abilities in mice. The researchers also observed that a certain subset of white blood cells, which are essential for immune defence, was severely depleted by the antibiotics in the gut. However, this effect could be reversed by plenty of exercise or feeding probiotics.
However, research on the question of what influence our gut bacteria have on our brain is still in its infancy. A large number of studies show an interplay between psychological problems, such as depression or anxiety, and a faulty colonisation of the intestine.
For example, irritable bowel patients often suffer from psychological problems or depressives struggle with digestion. However, the exact connection and interactions between the diseases have not yet been clarified.
Fascinating studies with mice, however, suggest the power of the microbiome: Mice that showed signs of autism became more social and less anxious when given certain bacteria. And conversely, after being implanted with the microbiome of depressed people, mice showed signs of depression.
While the research on mice cannot be directly transferred to humans, studies with human subjects are also promising. For example, several times the psyche of participants could be positively influenced by administering lactobacteria and bifidobacteria - especially the genera Lactobacteria and Bifidobacteria.
For example, 64% of a group of irritable bowel patients who suffered from anxiety disorders or depression reported an improvement in their psychological problems after taking Bifidobacterium longum for six weeks.
The exact connection between the microbiome and mental health is still unclear. However, researchers agree that it is beneficial for us if as many different "good" bacteria as possible live in our intestines.
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The gut and gut flora play a huge role in our overall health & wellbeing. But not only that! The central health organ, the gut, is in constant contact with the brain via the gut-brain axis. 90% of the information is sent from the gut to the brain and only 10% from the brain to the gut. Pay attention to a healthy intestinal flora and support your intestine with probiotics, stress reduction and a healthy lifestyle, because your intestine has a great influence on emotions and cognitive abilities.