The connection between your gut and your brain

Our diet, early development, and lifestyle has a direct relationship with the body’s microbial environment and emotional and neurological function. Understanding the enteric micro-environmental impact on gut and brain communication and modulation may help counselors develop strategies for assisting individuals to cope with stress-related and mood disorders. A huge amount of research work has been pronounced to understand how ‘the microscopic organisms whose ancestors inhabited our planet long before humans walked the earth’, are impacting on our health both physical and mental.

The digestive tract and the brain are intimately linked but this known for years now but today what’s newer is the idea that the microbial communities living in the gut do play an important in how the gut and the brain communicate. Day by day rise in scientific insights about the gut-brain axis are of particular interest in neuro-gastroenterology, which is a special field of gastroenterology focusing on connections between the Central Nervous System(CNS) and the Enteric Nervous System (ENS).

Gut-brain communication is a two way street. Nowadays researchers are working to discover more about the role of the gut microbiota in pathophysiology. Do you know, with new therapeutics, insights on the gut-brain axis could really make a difference for patients in today’s world.

Our gut and the associated microbiota play roles in the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems, it may also influence mood, behaviour, and physiology. There are now a number of theories on the cause of depression that are being explored, some of which are also relevant to the role gut bacteria, which includes following:

  1. Abnormal neural (or neuronal) connections: involving a problem in the wiring pattern in the brain.
  2.  Brain atrophy:depression appears to inhibit neurogenesis.
  3.  Hormonal imbalances: some studies have suggested there is an abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
  4. Genetics: there are many genetic variations that increase a person’s risk of depression.
  5. Brain inflammation: people who suffer from mood disorders are often gluten sensitive and vice versa and that gluten and sugar are potent stimulators of inflammation in our diet.

There lies a big question about what is the “gut–brain” and what does it have to do with emotion? The answer suggests that it is the bi-directional communication system in which the brain sends messages to the gut and the gut sends messages to the brain, via the ENS through the vagus nerve, as though it is one system. ENS is basically a meshwork of nerve fibers that innervate the GI tract, pancreas, and the gall bladder, is now considered to be the third branch of the ANS also known as the “second brain,” due to its complexity and size. The gut and its diverse microbes may be considered the “forgotten organ,” with its flora beginning at birth or even prenatally and developing over an individual’s lifespan.

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