Gut-Brain Connection

Some say your gut is the ‘second brain’ but I would almost argue that it’s the ‘first brain.’  If your gut is compromised – everything else is too!

Have you ever had a ‘gut feeling?’  You’ve likely felt “butterflies in your stomach” at some point when you were nervous or excited or you’ve probably had a gut instinct sometime in your life.

Besides your brain, your gut is the only organ with its own nervous system.  The small intestine alone has as many neurons as your spinal cord.

There is a relationship between your gut and your psychology – you may have heard of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome.   There is a gut-brain connection.  Your gut is very important for making neurotransmitters.  What are neurotransmitters you ask? These are chemical messengers that our brain and body use to communicate information throughout your body. Your gut, in fact, contains more neurotransmitters than your brain.   This is an example of how the gut influences one’s mood and well-being.

There is mounting evidence that gut bacteria affect mood and behavior.  There are certain strains of gut bacteria that can secrete neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, GABA and tryptophan.  GABA is a neurotransmitter that is important for a healthy brain and nervous system.  It is also estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract!  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a large role regarding mood, learning, appetite control, and sleep.  It is most well-known for its role in the brain where it plays a major part in mood, anxiety, and happiness.

The idea that our intestinal tracts shape our mental states is not a new one.  Medicine has a long history of blaming our guts for psychological disorders.  Latest research shows that the digestive tract and the CNS (central nervous system) have a two-way line of communication.  This communication is through the “gut-brain axis.”  The effects on the brain may involve signaling through the vagus nerve which anatomically connects the gut and the brain.

Does this make sense why your gut must be in balance for your brain to be in balance?  When things go awry in our guts, they can also go awry in our brains.

Up to 80% of people with irritable bowel syndrome experience increased anxiety and depression.

So where does one go from here?  It is crucial to clean up your diet if you have not done so already.  Eliminate any food sensitivities that you have.  I can test for these with a simple blood test.  Otherwise, start with eliminating the most common sensitivity foods.  The 5 most common food intolerances include:

  • Wheat (gluten)
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

I would also like to mention to eliminate food dyes as there is a relationship between food dyes and behavior issues.  For some persons, the GAPS diet may be the place to start heal and seal up the gut, especially with leaky gut.  Incorporation of probiotics daily from food and supplementation is going to help flourish and inoculate your gut with a wide variety of good bacteria.  Read my post on the gut microbiome if you have not done so.  We are learning that certain strains of bacteria are better for certain conditions and you want to make sure to choose appropriate probiotics.  Have your micronutrients tested to see if you have any underlying deficiencies that are important for your health.  Certain pathways in your body require certain nutrients to work properly.  Do you know the status of your vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins, etc.? We know how important Vitamin D is for our mood, along with a ton of other benefits for our bodies, however majority of clients I test are deficient in this crucial vitamin!

If we want to truly be healthy we first need to look to our gut.

To discuss you or your family’s health, email me at or contact our office to make an appointment for a consultation at 920-243-7140.

In good health,

Dr. Stephanie

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