Many clinicians have been stumped by complex disorders of the brain. Years of research and experimental tests have been conducted in order to distinguish certain causational factors. It has been found that the health status of the gut is strongly linked to conditions such as Autism, Parkinson’s and mood disorders (anxiety and depression) (Figure 1).
What are neurons?
Neurons are cells located in the brain and central nervous system that send signals to inform the body how to behave, function and respond. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain. An interesting fact to note is that the gut also carries such neurons that are linked to the brain via nerves in the nervous system. There are around 500 million neurons in the gut.
How does your gut affect your brain?
The largest nerve that transmits signals from the gut to the brain is the Vagus nerve. These signals are sent in both directions, from gut to brain and vice versa. Stress is directly related to the function of the gut. Studies have shown, in animals, that stress reduces the efficiency of signals being sent through the vagus nerve, which directly affects the gastrointestinal channel. This could lead to issues such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease.
The gut and brain are also linked through chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are responsible for our feelings and emotions. Many of these neurotransmitters are produced by the brain, but are also produced by the gut. The neurotransmitters in the gut are responsible for creating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for the control of anxiety and stress. The use of probiotics has been shown to help boost GABA production, and by default, reduce the feelings of fear and anxiety.
The Microbiome and Inflammation
Thousands of people, each year, are affected by inflammatory issues of the bowel. This can lead to symptoms of diarrhoea, constipation, heartburn, etc. People suffering from Crohn’s Disease and IBS are particularly affected by inflammatory bowel issues.
The Gut-Brain Axis is also connected through the immune system. When the immune response is “left on” too long, it causes inflammation. Toxins like Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is part of the cell wall of bacteria, can leak into the bloodstream causing inflammatory issues. This is often referred to as “Leaky Gut”. Leaky Gut is when the junctions between cells in the gut are not tight enough, and allow seepage of toxins into the bloodstream.
Inflammation causes an array of issues, and can be extremely uncomfortable for the individual affected. Extreme pain and physical discomfort can lead to mental health degradation as well, where patients feel hopeless and apathetic toward life.
This being said, there are many ways in which clinicians and patients can strategise to live better, healthier lives. This comes through finding the root cause, analysing the issue and developing solutions that can be implemented through lifestyle modification, personalised medication and diet. The combination of conventional and integrative methods have seen a huge benefit to both patients and health specialists.
The Gut-Brain Axis is extremely vital in understanding how our gut and mental health are linked. Often, long-term issues can be resolved by looking further into the state of an individual’s microbiome and gut health. Both integrative and preventive medicine are aiming to find better, more holistic solutions to long-term issues. Health care professionals are joining an elite group of people who are seeking out more effective treatment and prevention protocols.
How do I Become a Functional Medicine Practitioner to learn more about The Gut-Brain Axis?
The Institute of Integrative Medicine is a global leader in the field of Integrative Medicine Education. Integrative medicine aims to be at the forefront of modern technology and new discoveries. Understanding the link between the gut and brain can allow for significant improvements in health. We offer certified online courses helping you to take charge of your practice and improve the quality of life for your patients. Find out more about the courses we offer today!