Your gut and brain are more connected than you might think, in fact they are constantly sending singles back and forth to one another, this communication system is called the gut-brain axis.
The microbiota in your gut speaks to the neurons in your brain by way of the vagus nerve, one of the largest and most complex nerves connecting the brain to the gut. The two also communicate via Neurotransmitters, these are chemical messengers secreted by neurons and can be transmitted within milliseconds. The 500 million neurons in your gut are in direct contact with the billions of neurons in your brain.
Depression, anxiety, autism, obesity and eating disorders have all been linked to an impaired gut, which means having a well-functioning gut-brain axis is extremely important. One study found that people with IBS and Crohn’s had reduced vagal tone (this refers to the activity of the vagus nerve). Having a well functioning vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress, if this is impaired, studies suggest it could make you more susceptible to mental health issues. (1) In fact, in 2005, the FDA approved the use of vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for depression.
Neurotransmitters associated with gut health & mental health
Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced in the brain and by some of the microbes in your gut. They are what make and control feelings and emotions. One of the most important neurotransmitters is serotonin, also known as the ‘happy hormone’, it influences our mood, sleep, digestion and more. Surprisingly, 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, rather than in your brain as most people would assume.
Another neurotransmitter produced by your gut microbes is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which controls feelings of fear and anxiety. Studies show that increased GABA can lower anxiety and depression-related behaviours.
How to support your gut-brain axis:
- Ensure you have a healthy balanced diet full of colourful veggies fibre and fermented foods
- Reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, these can increase your levels of pathogenic bacteria
- Get regular exercise – the microbiomes of physically active people are more healthy and diverse
- Avoid antibiotics where unnecessary
- Get plenty of sleep
Take a Probiotic supplement such as our Daily Synbiotic which contains Bifidobacteria & Lactobacillus probiotic stains that some studies show can have a positive effect on positive effect on stress and anxiety levels. (1,2)
Take a prebiotic packed gut health supplement such as Aguulp for Gut, our powerful blend of vitamins, amino acids, collagen and prebiotics helps feed and stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria, support the gut lining, reduce bloating and contribute to regular, healthy bowel function.