Have you ever had the feeling of butterflies in your stomach? These sensations that emanate from your belly suggest that your brain and your stomach are connected. In addition, recent studies show that your brain affects intestinal health and that, in turn, the stomach can even affect your brain health.
The communication system between the stomach and the brain is known as the brain-intestinal axis. These two organs are connected physically and biochemically in different ways. Therefore, discover the role of nutrition in the connection between stomach and brain.
Role of nutrition in the brain-stomach connection
1.Vagus nerve and the nervous system
Neurons are cells that are found in the brain and central nervous system that tell your body how to behave. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain, which is curious since your stomach contains 500 million of these neurons, which are connected to the brain through the nerves in your nervous system.
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves that connect your intestine and your brain. and in turn, it sends signals in both directions. For example, in animal studies, stress inhibits signals sent through the vagus nerve and also causes gastrointestinal problems.
On the other hand, an interesting study in mice found that feeding these animals with a probiotic reduced the amount of stress hormone in their blood. However, when the vagus nerve was cut, the probiotic had no effect. This suggests that the vagus nerve is important in the brain-intestinal axis and its role in stress.
On the other hand, your stomach and brain are also connected through chemical substances called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for controlling feelings and emotions. For example, serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps control your body’s clock.
Interestingly, many of these neurotransmitters are also produced by intestinal cells and the billions of microbes that live there, because a large proportion of serotonin is produced in the intestine. Intestinal microbes also produce a neurotransmitter called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety.
How do intestinal microbes affect your body?
1.Producing other chemicals that affect the brain
The trillions of microbes that live in your stomach also produce other chemicals that affect the way your brain works, because they produce many short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. At the same time, these fatty acids affect brain function in several ways, such as reducing appetite.
In addition, intestinal microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids to produce other chemicals that affect the brain. Bile acids are chemical substances produced by the liver that normally participate in the absorption of fats in the diet; however, they can also affect the brain.
Two studies in mice found that stress and social disruption reduce the production of bile acids by intestinal bacteria and alter the genes involved in their production.
Your intestinal axis is also connected through the immune system. The intestinal microbes play an important role in the immune system and inflammation to control what happens to the body and excreted.
If your immune system is activated for too long, it can cause inflammation, which is associated with a series of brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is an inflammatory toxin produced by certain bacteria, which can cause inflammation if much of it passes from the intestine to the blood. This can happen when the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, which allows bacteria and LPS to cross into the blood.
Usefulness of probiotics and prebiotics for the brain-intestinal axis
The intestinal bacteria affect brain health, so changing them can improve your brain health. The probiotics are live bacteria that provide health benefits if eaten. However, not all probiotics are the same; since some affect the brain (they are called “psychobiotics “).
A small study of people with irritable bowel syndrome and mild to moderate anxiety or depression found that taking a probiotic called Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 for 6 weeks significantly improved symptoms. On the other hand, prebiotics, which are usually fibers fermented by intestinal bacteria, can also affect brain health. One study found that taking a prebiotic called galactooligosaccharide for 3 weeks reduced the amount of stress hormone in the body: cortisol.
What foods help the intestinal axis?
- Omega-3 fats: these fats are found in fatty fish and also in large quantities in the human brain. Studies in humans and animals show that omega-3 can increase good bacteria in the intestine and reduce the risk of brain disorders.
- Fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and cheese contain healthy microbes such as lactobacilli. It has also been shown that fermented foods alter brain activity.
- Foods rich in fiber: whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables contain prebiotic fibers that are good for intestinal bacteria.
- Foods rich in polyphenols: cocoa, green tea, olive oil and coffee contain polyphenols, which are plant chemicals that are digested by intestinal bacteria. These increase healthy intestinal bacteria and can improve cognition.
- Foods rich in tryptophan: tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Examples of foods high in tryptophan are turkey, eggs and cheese.
Related Wiki Link: Gut–brain axis