Your brain is the leader of your body. It constantly receives information from your internal and external environment and decides the best course of action to take for your survival. The brain carries out this action by sending messages through the nerves of the nervous system to the appropriate parts of the body.
There are 2 main types of nervous systems –
- Central Nervous System
- Autonomic Nervous Systems
There are also two branches of the autonomic nervous system. they are Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System, and these two helps us explain how our brain controls our body. On the flip side, we can also ask ourselves a question: Can our body control our brain? In answering that question, I will first ask you two questions….
Have you ever heard of the Gut-Brain connection?
Do you know how your food affects how you feel?
THE SECOND BRAIN!
The gut is sometimes known as our second brain. In fact, it has its own branch of the nervous system called the enteric nervous system that can function on its own, even if it is disconnected from the brain.
The enteric nervous system also resembles a brain because it:
- …has glial cells to support the neurons in the gut
- …contains 500 million neurons
- …uses 40 (and possibly many more) neurotransmitters
- …produces 50% of the body’s dopamine (important for motility)
- …produces 95% of the body’s serotonin (important for the enteric nervous system’s growth & cell protection)
- …has a barrier that resembles the blood brain barrier
- …may even have its own memory
and (….just a little bit more science….)
The brain and the gut are intimately connected by the a nerve, called the vagus nerve, and this nerve connects with most of the organs in the body. Amazingly, around 90% of the signals passing along the vagus nerve, comes – not from the brain – but from the enteric nervous system to the brain. This is because one of the ways the brain, itself, learns about its environment is through the gut.
A LITTLE BIT ON SEROTONIN…
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical substance which is released at the end of a nerve and is the means of transfer of an impulse to another nerve fibre, a muscle fibre, or some other structure) that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibits pain. And since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract (your gut), and your gastrointestinal tract lining is filed with a hundred million nerve cells or neurons, it makes complete sense that the inner workings of your digestive system shouldn’t just digest your food but also guide your emotions.
Best of all, the function of the neurons – and production of neurotransmitters like serotonin – is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect your gut lining and provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria,’ and they limit inflammation; they also improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food and activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and brain.
When we are stressed, there is a hormone that is released in the gut – Ghrelin, the hunger hormone – which also inhibits serotonin activity, leading to digestive issues, increased anxiety and depression over time.
This brain-gut disharmony is often the cause of disorders like autism, ADHD, and various other mood disorders. When you eat highly refined, toxin laden foods, your body must fire up its immune system and sympathetic nervous system to protect you from the threat. This will cause blood flow to be directed away from your pre-frontal cortex while your blood sugar rises. When your blood sugar is high, it creates plaque build-up in the brain and impairs blood vessel function, which reduces your cognitive abilities. Combine that with the lack of activity in your pre-frontal cortex, and you will feel impulsive and anxious and make illogical decisions.
When you add stress and poor food choices together, it creates a cascade of negative effects in the gut microbiome, gut, enteric nervous system, and the brain that lead to poor decision-making, a greater incidence of pain, more allergies, and more disease.
So how do we synchronize brain and gut health?
The good news is you can still restore the harmony between your gut, gut microbiome, enteric nervous system, and brain – by watching what you consume. A good option is to eliminate foods that cause problems for you, and then introduce probiotics into your diet.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system.
Probiotics have been found to reduce anxiety and depression. In studies done on mice, the amount of lactobacillus in their gut effected the amount of a metabolite in the blood, which has been shown to drive depression. Probiotics also help produce serotonin in the gut, which has protective effects against irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Studies have shown that when probiotics are introduced into the diet, anxiety levels, perception of stress and mental outlook improve.