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The Gut-Brain Connection

Have you ever felt nauseous before public speaking or experienced digestive issues before doing something that makes you nervous? If so, you are likely familiar with the gut-brain connection, whether you realize it or not! 


There’s more to it than simply butterflies in your stomach. There is actually a strong connection between your brain and your gut or more specifically, your microbiome. This means that not only can your brain affect your gut, but also your gut can affect your brain. 

In recent years, this connection has even been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.1 The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because of this strong connection.2 Many people who experience gastrointestinal problems subsequently experience anxiety and stress. In turn, anxiety and stress can exacerbate gastrointestinal problems.


The Vagus Nerve:


One of the important physical connections from the brain to the gut is the vagus nerve. This is one of the largest nerves that connect the brain to the gut and is able to send signals in both directions.3


It sends signals through neurons which are cells in the brain and nervous system that help with the communication between the brain and the body. There are roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain and 500 million in the gut. They can transmit information through electrical impulses and chemical signals. 

This link with the vagus nerve is central to the gut-brain connection, so much that there is even promising evidence that stimulating the vagus nerve can aid in the treatment of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and inflammatory bowel disease.3




The gut and brain are further connected through neurotransmitters, which are produced in the neuron itself. Because there are also many neurons in the gut, many neurotransmitters are also produced in the gut! 


One well-known neurotransmitter for most people is serotonin, which contributes to the feeling of happiness and can also help with the circadian rhythm. 


Another commonly known neurotransmitter is gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which can help control feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. It has been demonstrated that certain probiotics have aided in the production of GABA, which in turn helps to reduce these feelings of anxiety, as well as other psychiatric conditions.4


Role of the Microbiome:


The beneficial bacteria in your gut do a lot more than you may realize! More and more evidence has shown that the beneficial bacteria in your gut are able to regulate both the gut and brain functions. This includes mood, cognitive function, and behavior. 


When you feed this good bacteria with prebiotics, which are found in fiber, the bacteria can produce something called short-chain-fatty acids. These short-chain-fatty acids then have a role in forming the blood-brain barrier. 


Needless to say, making sure your microbiome is healthy can play a big part in keeping your brain healthy as well! 


What to do:


Now that you hopefully have a better understanding of the gut-brain connection, what can you do to optimize this for your health? Well, there are several ways you can support your gut which in turn can help with your brain health.


  • Probiotic foods: Whether you choose to take a supplement or consume plenty of probiotic foods, it can oftentimes be a helpful way to improve gut health. Luckily, many foods naturally contain probiotics! For example, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir all contain probiotics. 
  • Prebiotic foods: The good bacteria in your gut feeds on prebiotics. Prebiotics are found in fiber foods such as garlic, onions, green bananas, and asparagus. 
  • Manage stress: Since stress can have an impact on your gut, it is important to manage stress to reduce digestive upset and protect your microbiome. When it comes to stress management, there are many great options. Whether that is walking, journaling, talking to a friend, or meditation, find what works for you! 
  • Movement: Finding a form of movement that reduces stress, improves gut motility, and feels good to you is another great way to improve your gut health. As a perk, it may even be an activity that helps with stress management, while also helping with the movement of your gastrointestinal tract.5



Summary: If you didn’t have time to read the whole article, here is what you need to know! Our brain and gut are connected through both nerves and neurotransmitters. This communication is a two-way street! Meaning that not only can your brain affect your gut, but also your gut can affect your brain. By taking care of your gut health, you will also be helping your brain health! 


Get Personalized Nutrition Advice from GenoPalate

Wondering what else you can do to keep your gut microbiome healthy? Eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods is the best place to start. For many people, seeking personalized nutrition advice can help them achieve this goal.


Personalized nutrition offers advice and eating plans that are tailored to your unique genetic needs. Instead of following fad and popular diet trends, eating according to your DNA allows you to develop a diet that is healthier and more sustainable in the long term. You can learn more about GenoPalate’s approach to personalized nutrition here.



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