Our Brain and Gut are One

Al-Asmakh M, Anuar F, Zadjali F, Rafter J, Pettersson S. Gut microbial communities modulating brain development and function. Gut microbes. 2012;3(40:366-373. doi:10.4161/gmic.21287.

Have you ever been anxious and felt the need to go to the toilet?
Have you ever felt emotionally down and craved junk food?

Our levels of stress affect the gut and vice versa. Recent research has demonstrated that neurotransmitters like the “flight or fight” stress hormones play a significant role in gastrointestinal function.

Norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin have recently been a topic of interest because of their roles in the gut physiology and their roles in gastrointestinal and central nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s and Inflammatory Bowel disease.[1] Your gut "enteric" nervous system has around 500 million neurons and produces half your body’s Dopamine and 90-95% of your serotonin!

Psycho-emotional Impact on the Microbiome: [2]

  • Stress suppresses Lactobacillus, Bifido-bacteria, and sIgA

  • 45-50% of total body production of norepinephrine occurs in mesenteric organs. Catecholamines stimulate growth of gram-negative organisms (Yersinia, Pseudomonas)

  • Anger or fear increases Bacteroides fragilis

Research has now discovered that gut hormones enter the brain, and some are in fact produced in the brain itself, and these influence cognitive (mental) ability.[3] In addition, well-established regulators of synaptic plasticity, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, can function as metabolic modulators, responding to peripheral signals such as food intake. In other words, our mind and body are one.[4]

Neuroscientists now suggest that preventing the loss of masticatory function (ability to chew by keeping your teeth) will help "stabilize or even improve cognition" in the general population as well as patients with dementia [5]. Your mouth and brain are connected in far more complex ways that most people realise!

Studies have shown that what we eat also impacts the gut microbiome (the ecosystem of different microorganisms in our digestive tract) and this can have profound impacts on our overall health. Gut microbes communicate to the central nervous system through at least 3 parallel and interacting channels involving nervous, endocrine, and immune signalling mechanisms.

Evidence now points to alterations in this brain-gut-microbiome communication as being responsible for irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and several psychiatric and neurologic disorders.[6] What we eat changes the gut microbiome. Our microbiome creates many of the key nutrients we need and changes the neurotransmitter levels in the body. Recall that 90% of your serotonin is made in the gut!

Magnesium’s role in the gut microbiota has been of recent interest, as alterations in gut microbiota have been linked to depression. Magnesium-induced changes in microbiota have also been associated with changes in the oxidative and inflammatory response, characterized by increased cytokines and biomarkers of cellular stress. Studies have demonstrated an inverse association between dietary Magnesium intake and levels of inflammatory markers, CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α receptor 2. [7]

Wouldn’t it make sense then to focus on gut health when thinking about the rest of the body?

At Evergreen Doctors we do. But we also go beyond that, looking at your entire health in a holistic manner.
Taking a random supplement in isolation isn’t enough, you need a holistic approach. In fact, the specific nutrient therapy you need varies considerably, but is based on decades of research.



References

[1] Mittal, R., Debs, L.H., Patel, A.P., Nguyen, D., Patel, K., O’Connor, G., Grati, M., Mittal, J., Yan, D., Eshraghi, A.A., Deo, S.K., Daunert, S., Liu, X.Z. (2017, September). Neurotransmitters: The critical modulators regulating gut-brain axis. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 232 (9): 2359-2372. Doi: 10.1002/jcp.25518.

[2] Bailey MT, Coe CL. Maternal separation disrupts the integrity of the intestinal microflora in infant rhesus monkeys. Developmental Psychobiology. 1999;35(20:145-155. Doi:10.1002/(sic)1098-2302(199909)35:2<146::aid-dev7>3.0.co;2-g.

[3] Gibbons, A. (2007, June 15). Paleoanthropology. Food for thought. Science, 316(5831): 1558-1560. Doi: 10.1126/science.316.5831.1558.

[4] Gomez Pinilla F. Brain Foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2008;7:568-578

[5] R.A.F. Weijenberga, E.J.A. Scherdera, F. Lobbezoo Neuroscience and BioBehavioural Reviews 35 (2011) 483-497

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6047317/

[7] J. Wang, P. Um, B. A. Dickerman, J. Liu, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium and Depression: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms and Implications, Nutrients. 2018 May; 10(5): 584. [Link]