How Your Gut-Microbiome Works With Your Brain Health

Domonique D. Hargrove B.A., M.S., NCEP Certified, President & Founder of “Slight Edge Performance Program” LLC

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What is The Human Gut-Microbiome?

The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders.

Human gastrointestinal microbiota, also known as gut flora or gut microbiota, are the microorganisms, that live in the digestive tracts of humans. Many non-human animals, including insects, are hosts to numerous microorganisms that reside in the gastrointestinal tract as well.

Your ‘gut microbiome‘ is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract. These bacteria live in your digestive system and they play a key role in digesting food you eat, and they help with absorbing and synthesizing nutrients too.

Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health.

Relationship Between The Gut Microbiome and Brain Function?

Strong evidence suggests that gut microbiota has an important role in bidirectional interactions between the gut and the nervous system. It interacts with Central Nervous System (CNS) by regulating brain chemistry and influencing neuro-endocrine systems associated with stress response, anxiety and memory function.

The gutbrain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. Recent advances in research have described the importance of gut microbiota in influencing these interactions.

Insights into the gut-brain research have revealed a complex communication system that not only ensures the proper maintenance of gastrointestinal homeostasis, but is likely to have multiple effects on affect, motivation, and higher cognitive functions. The complexity of these interactions is enclosed in the branch of research called “gut-brain axis” (GBA).

Situated in your head is the seat of the Central Nervous system (CNS) made up of the brain and spinal cord. It is rightly called the “first brain” due to its primary role in controlling body functions.  Also, situated in the bowel is the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), a nine meter network from your esophagus to the anus. The ENS and CNS are formed from the same embryonic tissue, share similar neuronal networks, and hormones. The gut brain produces the same amount of dopamine (‘high’ hormone) and 90% of serotonin (‘happy’ hormone) compared to the first brain. The gut brain can work independently, and is responsible for 70% of the body’s immune system which earns it the right to be called the “second brain”.

Not only do we have two ‘brains’, but there is also a bidirectional communication line between them  through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main nerve in our body linking the brain with organs like the digestive tract, heart, and lungs.

The role of our “gut-brain axis” (GBA) is to monitor and integrate gut functions as well as to link emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions and mechanisms such as immune activation, intestinal permeability, enteric reflex, and entero-endocrine signaling. The mechanisms underlying GBA communications involve neuro-immune-endocrine mediators.

The neuroimmuneendocrine interface is mediated by cytokines acting as auto/paracrine or endocrine factors regulating pituitary development, cell proliferation, hormone secretion, and feedback control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is our central stress response system. The HPA axis is an eloquent and every-dynamic intertwining of the central nervous system and endocrine system.

The human gut harbors a dynamic and complex microbial ecosystem, consisting of approximately 1 kg of bacteria in the average adult, approximately the weight of the human brain. The evolutionary formation of a complex gut microbiota in mammals and humans has played an important role in enabling brain development and perhaps sophisticated social interaction.

Genes within the human gut microbiota, termed the microbiome, significantly outnumber human genes in the body, and are capable of producing a myriad of neuroactive compounds.

Gut microbes are part of the unconscious system regulating behavior. Recent investigations indicate that these microbes majorly impact on cognitive function and fundamental behavior patterns, such as social interaction and stress management. In the absence of microbes, underlying neurochemistry is profoundly altered. Studies of gut microbes may play an important role in advancing understanding of disorders of cognitive functioning and social interaction, such as autism.

How To Improve Your Gut-Microbiome Health?

In conclusion, both your diet and your lifestyle can affect gut microbiota health and balance. A healthy diet that is high in fiber and a regular eating schedule during the day are tools we can easily access for improved gut microbiota rhythmicity, meanwhile behaviors that include eating late at night, alcohol consumption and sleep disruption need to be avoided.

Polyphenols act on the gut microbiota by increasing the growth of beneficial bacteria which produce compounds scientifically proven to promote our health and wellbeing. These phytochemicals have the potential to improve depression because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

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