That gut feeling? The brain-gut connection is one of the most exciting and dynamic scientific discoveries in medicine that has immediate and direct influence on our health and well-being.
The science began to evolve from a field of medicine that started in the 1980s called Psycho-Neuro-Immunology. These scientists embarked on research to determine the connection between these 3 systems since they knew that these systems started from the same embryological origin. In other words, in utero, these are all one system, and then they differentiate into separate systems. These researches wanted to know if these 3 systems continued to communicate with each other. In the last 40 years, the brain-gut connection has continued to excite and surprise us.
Here are a few things we know about it:
The gut has a complex nervous system that is comprised of over 100 million neurons which line the inner walls of our digestive tract. These neurons not only help digestive functions of digestion, absorption and elimination, but they actually have sensory receptors and reflexes that help us perceive and feel information from our environment. The “enteric nervous system” is now referred to as the “Second Brain.”
There are over 30 neurotransmitters that are produced in the gut. The neurotransmitters are communicating messengers that share information between the gut, immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. These neurotransmitters include: serotonin, GABA, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and endorphins. It is believed that more than 95% of our happy and well-being hormone, serotonin, is produced in our gut. Therefore, a healthy well-functioning gut is the foundation for emotional and mental well-being.
The gut microbiome is one of the ways that the gut communicates with the nervous system, immune system and endocrine system. It is believed that the microbiome has the function of regulating through production and elimination of the neurotransmitters. Therefore, a healthy microbiome that is nourished by a whole foods diet which is high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and probiotics…will contribute to a healthy and balanced brain chemistry. Small changes in our lifestyle, diet and supplement regimes can lead to big payoffs in our emotional and mental well-being.
The next time you have a gut instinct, follow it!