The Gut-Brain Connection: What You Need to Know
This post is sponsored by Sovereign Laboratories
The gut-brain connection plays a role in how you feel every day. To understand the link between your gut and your brain, let’s examine some of the key questions surrounding the gut-brain connection.
What Is the Gut-Brain Connection?
Some research suggests there is a correlation between gut and brain health. To put it simply: how you treat your gut may impact your brain, and vice versa.
The vagus nerve is an information superhighway where information is constantly zipping up and down between the gut and the brain on a continuous and ongoing basis. The gut sends signals to the brain, and the brain sends signals to the gut. As such, the gut-brain connection can impact how you feel.
How you treat your body can have far-flung effects on the gut-brain connection as well. If you understand how to properly take care of your body and mind, you can do the right things to keep your gut and brain healthy.
What Is the Gut-Brain Axis, and How Does It Work?
The gut-brain axis refers to a bidirectional connection between the gut and the central and enteric nervous systems. It consists of direct and indirect pathways between the brain’s cognitive, emotional and peripheral intestinal functions. This axis combines the sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which manages various neural signals between the gut and brain.
The gut-brain axis also manages stress responses, including activation of memory and emotional centers in the brain. Furthermore, the gut-brain axis ensures that the brain can impact the body’s intestinal function.
Recent research indicates that the gut microbiome helps the body digest food and absorb nutrients from it. The gut microbiome features trillions of microorganisms, some of which are “good” and some of which are “bad,” may impact the gut-brain axis. Disturbances of the gut microbiome may also contribute to obesity and affect the function of the gut-brain axis, as the gut microbiome lies at the center of this axis.
What Is the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), and How Does It Impact the Gut-Brain Connection?
The ENS, which may also be referred to as the “brain in your gut,” consists of two layers that contain millions of nerve cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract — in fact, there are more nerves in the gut than in the spinal cord! Your ENS helps manage digestion in the body, as well as maintains a direct connection to the brain.
We know that the brain can influence the composition of the gut microbiome, and the gut microbiome can influence feelings, emotions, and pain sensations. Comparatively, your ENS communicates with your brain. Thus, if you experience GI irritation, your ENS sends a signal to the brain. In this instance, you may experience mood changes.
People coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach upset, and other functional bowel problems may be more prone than others to significant mood shifts. To help manage their bowel issues, these people may require a combination of mind-body therapies.
How Do the Foods You Eat Impact the Gut-Brain Connection?
The foods you choose to eat day after day can affect how you feel.
Fruits, vegetables, and other foods high in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients can revitalize the body, so they may help you keep your GI tract healthy. Or, if you eat fatty, packaged, and processed foods regularly, you may experience GI issues like nausea, constipation, and bloating. We also know that a poor diet can impact the diversity of the gut microbiome and drive chronic inflammation in the gut.
Meanwhile, serotonin is a key neurotransmitter because it helps regulate mood and inhibit pain. The majority of the body’s serotonin comes from the GI tract (approximately 90% of it does), but when the gut does not properly produce serotonin, your mood may be affected.
The body’s production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters can be affected by the “good” bacteria in the intestinal microbiome. So, if you frequently eat nutrient-rich foods, you can support the intestinal microbiome and its ability to produce serotonin and other neurotransmitters. On the other hand, if you constantly eat highly processed foods and packaged foods and sugars, the intestinal microbiome may become imbalanced, leading to physical and emotional side effects.
What Is the Link Between Gut Health and Stress?
Stress from work, school, and other everyday activities can contribute to GI pain and discomfort. If you feel extremely stressed, you may struggle to eat or feel the urge to eat too much at once.
Moreover, some research suggests people dealing with GI disorders may be more acutely aware of pain than others, due to the fact that their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. For these people, stress can cause their existing gut pain to feel worse than ever before.
How people cope with stress may have an impact on their gut health, too. If you know the right ways to manage stress on a day-to-day basis, you may be well-equipped to minimize gut pain and myriad GI disorders. Did you know that stress can cause certain chemicals to be released in the gut that can, in effect, cause bacteria that are “good” to become pathogenic or “bad”?
How Can Probiotics and Prebiotics Support the Gut-Brain Connection?
Both probiotics and prebiotics may support the gut-brain connection in a variety of ways.
Probiotics are live bacteria that help support digestive health. They may be taken as nutritional supplements, or they may be consumed as part of a healthy diet in the form of fermented foods such as pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, miso, and several other probiotic-rich foods.
Prebiotics feed gut bacteria and help them to grow and multiply. They often consist of plant-based foods high in dietary fiber and may be found in garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, and a number of other foods.
For people who want to integrate probiotics and prebiotics into their diet, they can do so via a wide range of nutritional supplements and specific healthy foods. Another important consideration is liposomal colostrum, which contains over 100 bioactive and immune-modulating substances that can help heal a leaky gut and cultivate a healthy microbiome. There is even some research that suggests colostrum may have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome.
What Is Bovine Colostrum, and How Does It Support the Gut-Brain Connection?
Colostrum, sometimes referred to as the “first food of life,” is produced by mammalian mothers in the initial days following childbirth. It is produced before breast milk becomes available and serves as a nutrient-dense substance that may support the immune system of newborn mammals.
Bovine colostrum is a nutritional supplement that may help with gut dysbiosis, i.e. a condition that occurs due to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. It may also help reduce intestinal permeability. Some research suggests that colostrum may help commensal microorganisms colonize in the gut in people dealing with low counts of health-promoting bacteria as well.
Along with the aforementioned benefits, bovine colostrum may contain bioactive substances categorized into nutritional factors, immune factors, and growth factors. Together, these substances help make bovine colostrum a beneficial nutritional supplement that may support the gut-brain connection.
The Bottom Line on the Foods You Eat and Their Impact on the Gut-Brain Connection
Truly, at the risk of sounding cliché, you are what you eat, and the foods you consume on a regular basis can impact both your gut health and brain function. Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in plant-based foods with plenty of phytonutrients is key, as is exercising, reducing stress, eliminating toxins, and ensuring proper sleep hygiene. Using supportive foods like liposomal colostrum may also be a great tool in helping to keep the balance in your gut microbiome and reduce inflammation.
By doing these things, we can try to optimize our gut-brain connection. Of course, as always, make sure you discuss any treatments or supplements with your physician before taking anything new to make sure that it is safe and acceptable for you.
Sovereign Laboratories provides Colostrum-LD®, a bovine colostrum supplement that may help support a healthy gut, and in doing so, also helps support emotional and mental health. Colostrum-LD® contains a combination of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that make it a top choice among bovine colostrum supplements. Plus, Colostrum-LD® is the only bovine colostrum product to use a liposomal delivery (LD) system to ensure maximum effectiveness and absorption.
If you are evaluating ways to improve the gut-brain connection, you may want to consider Colostrum-LD®. With Colostrum-LD®, you may enjoy a bovine colostrum supplement that supports the gut and brain now and in the future.
Author Bio: Marvin Singh, M.D is an Integrative Gastroenterologist in San Diego, California, and a Member of the Board and Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He is also trained and board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology/Hepatology. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Singh completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System followed by fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. Singh was trained by Andrew Weil, M.D., a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine