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Exploring the Gut Brain Connection



The gut-brain connection is called the enteric nervous system (ENS). The gut is often referred to as the second brain and it causes emotions like getting butterflies when we are feeling excited or nervous. The ENS is made up of two thin layers that contain 100 million nerve cells. These cells are located on the line of the gastrointestinal tract that runs from the esophagus down to the rectum. In this blog article, we will talk about the function, anatomy, and medical conditions that involve the gut-brain connection.


What is the role of the gut-brain connection?

The brain and digestive system are both put in place together to help us survive. The gut and the brain need to stay in close connection to receive enough nutrients that the body needs. If there was an instance where we ate the wrong thing or if we needed to slow down our digestion, we have a good alarm system in place.


The alarm system is made up of the emotional part of our brain. Emotion can make physical sensations in your gut seem more intense. Intense physical sensations can also raise your stress levels and your emotional response. This feedback is strong between your brain and gut.

Some studies suggest an exchange between your gut and brain that may influence your:


●       Hunger and satiety

●       Food preferences and cravings

●       Food sensitivities and intolerances

●       Gut motility (muscle movements)

●       Digestion

●       Metabolism

●       Behavior

●       Stress levels


Body systems that involve the gut-brain connection

The nervous system also works closely with the endocrine system which functions to produce hormones that communicate things like hunger, fullness, and stress. It also works closely with the immune system to acknowledge injury or disease in your gut. The enteric nervous system is a special division of your autonomic nervous system. The function of the autonomic nervous system is to govern the automatic function of the internal organs. The vagus nerve is the main link between the enteric nervous system and the brain. The role of the vagus nerve is to transport sensory information about the conditions inside your gut from the enteric nervous system to the brain.


Bacteria that live in the gut are also involved in the gut-brain connection. Gut microbes produce or help produce many chemical neurotransmitters that deliver messages between the gut and the brain.


Medical conditions that involve the gut-brain axis

●       Irritable bowel syndrome and functional constipation or diarrhea

●       Anxiety and depressive disorders

●       Noncardiac chest pain

●       Infant colic

●       Functional dyspepsia

●       Gastroparesis


We must take care of our bodies and provide enough nutrients to continue to live a healthy lifestyle. We should try to keep our stress levels low and find ways to relieve our stress. Eating a variety of whole foods and adding diversity to our diet will lead us to good gut health. And good gut health can have a positive impact on brain health.


References


Cleveland Clinic. (2023, September, 20). The Gut-Brain Connection. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/the-gut-brain-connection


Loconti, C. (2024, February 18). What to Know About the Gut Brain Link. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-to-know-about-gut-brain-link


This blog was reviewed by Shannon Hodson of Kelly's Choice.

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