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The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition

The Gut-Brain Connection: How It Works and The Role of Nutrition

The gut-brain axis is the term used to describe the communication pathway between your stomach and brain. They are interconnected in a variety of ways, both physically and biochemically. They could potentially affect each other's health.
Have you ever had a gut instinct or stomach butterflies?
Your stomach's feelings may indicate a connection between your brain and intestines.
Additionally, current research indicates that your gut health may even have an impact on the health of your brain.
In this article, the gut-brain axis is discussed along with foods that are good for it.

How Are the Gut and Brain Connected?

The network of communication between your stomach and brain is known as the gut-brain axis.
There are several physical and biological connections between these two organs.

The Vagus Nerve and the Nervous System

Your brain and central nervous system contain neurons, which are cells that instruct your body's actions. The human brain has 100 billion neurons on average.
It's interesting to note that 500 million of your gut's neurons connect to your brain via nerves in your nervous system.
One of the largest nerves linking your gut and brain is called the vagus nerve. It transmits messages both ways.
For instance, stress impairs the signals transmitted by the vagus nerve in animal experiments and also leads to digestive issues.
In a similar vein, human research indicated that individuals with Crohn's illness or IBS had lower vagal tones, which suggested that the vagus nerve was functioning less effectively.
According to an intriguing study on mice, giving them a probiotic lowered the level of the stress hormone in their blood. The probiotic had no impact when their vagus nerve was severed, though.
This implies that the vagus nerve plays a crucial role in the gut-brain axis and its relationship to stress.


Neurotransmitters are a class of molecules that connect your brain and intestines.
The brain produces neurotransmitters that regulate sensations and emotions.
For instance, the neurotransmitter serotonin helps regulate your biological clock and also contributes to feelings of happiness.
It's interesting to note that your gut cells and the billions of microorganisms that reside there also create many of these neurotransmitters. The gut is where the majority of serotonin is produced.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is produced by your gut microorganisms, is a neurotransmitter that aids in the regulation of fear and anxiety.
Studies on lab mice have demonstrated that certain probiotics can boost GABA synthesis, which in turn lowers anxiety and depressive-like symptoms.

Gut Microbes Make Other Chemicals That Affect the brain.

The billions of microorganisms in your gut also produce other substances that have an impact on how your brain functions.
Many short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, propionate, and acetate, are produced by the bacteria in your gut.
They metabolize fiber to produce SCFA. SCFA has a variety of effects on brain function, including hunger suppression.
According to one study, taking propionate can lower food intake and lower brain activity associated with rewarding high-energy foods.
The formation of the blood-brain barrier, which separates the brain from the bloodstream, depends on butyrate, another SCFA, and the microorganisms that make it.
Additionally, bile acids and amino acids are metabolized by gut microorganisms to create additional brain-affecting compounds.
The liver produces bile acids, which are substances that are often used to absorb dietary lipids. They could, however, have an impact on the brain.
According to two studies done on mice, social problems and stress both decrease the generation of bile acids by gut bacteria and change the genes that control it.

Gut Microbes Affect inflammation.

Your immune system is another link in your gut-brain axis.
By regulating what is ingested and expelled, your gut and gut microorganisms play a significant role in your immune system and inflammation.
When your immune system is activated for an extended period of time, inflammation can result. Inflammation is linked to a number of brain illnesses, including depression and Alzheimer's disease.
Certain bacteria produce the inflammatory toxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS). If too much of it enters the bloodstream from the gut, it may result in inflammation.
This can occur when the intestinal barrier weakens, allowing germs and LPS to enter the bloodstream.
Serious depression, dementia, and schizophrenia are just a few of the brain illnesses that have been linked to inflammation and high blood levels of LPS.


Physical connections between your gut and brain are made by millions of nerves, most notably the vagus nerve. Additionally, the gut and its microorganisms regulate inflammation and produce a wide range of chemicals that may have an impact on mental health.

Probiotics, prebiotics, and the Gut-Brain Axis

Altering your gut flora may help your brain function better since gut flora has an impact on brain health.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when consumed, provide health advantages. But not all probiotics are created equal.
"Psychobiotics" are probiotics that have an impact on the brain.
It has been demonstrated that certain probiotics can reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
One small study revealed that taking the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 for six weeks significantly reduced symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome and mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression.
Prebiotics, which are generally fibers that your gut bacteria ferment, may also have an impact on the health of your brain.
According to one study, ingesting the prebiotic galactooligosaccharides for three weeks considerably decreased the body's cortisol levels.


Psychobiotics are another name for probiotics that have an impact on the brain. Anxiety, stress, and sadness have been found to be decreased by prebiotics and probiotics alike.

What Foods Help the Gut-Brain Axis?

A select few dietary categories are particularly good for the gut-brain axis.
Some of the more significant ones are listed below:
  1. Omega-3 fats: These fats are abundant in the human brain as well as in oily fish. Studies on both people and animals have shown that omega-3s can boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and lower the chance of developing brain problems.
  2. Fermented foods: Healthy germs like lactic acid bacteria are present in cheese, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and all of these foods. There is evidence that eating fermented food changes brain function.
  3. High-fiber foods: The prebiotic fibers in whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are all beneficial to the gut flora. Prebiotics help lower human stress hormone levels.
  4. Polyphenol-rich foods: Polyphenols are plant compounds that are broken down by the bacteria in your stomach and are present in foods like cocoa, green tea, coffee, and olive oil. Polyphenols boost beneficial gut flora and may enhance brain function.
  5. Tryptophan-rich foods: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is created from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, eggs, and cheese.


Numerous meals, including fatty fish, fermented foods, and high-fiber foods, may aid in boosting the good bacteria in your stomach and enhancing the health of your brain.

The Bottom Line

The connections between your stomach and brain on a physical and chemical level are referred to as the gut-brain axis.
Your stomach and brain are connected by millions of neurons and nerves. Your stomach produces several substances, including neurotransmitters, that have an impact on your brain.
You might be able to enhance the health of your brain by modifying the kinds of bacteria in your stomach.
Your gut health may be improved by consuming omega-3 fatty acids, fermented foods, probiotics, and other foods high in polyphenols, which may aid the gut-brain axis.


What is the connection between the brain heart and gut?

Communicate through the vagus nerve.

What is the connection between gut health and brain health?

The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines.

How can I improve my gut-brain connection?

Progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and restful music.

What is the connection between food and the brain?

The food you eat affects neurons, which are the major cells of the brain.

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