According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers have discovered that a lesser known nervous system in our guts (our “second brain”) communicates with the brain in our head. Together, “our two brains” play a key role in certain diseases in our bodies and overall health. For example, anxiety and stress are psychological concerns. We know that patients with gastrointestinal problems often experience anxiety and stress because of their condition. In addition, anxiety and stress can make GI problems worse. In many situations, psychological treatment can ease GI distress or at least help a person cope with their GI symptoms.
Neurotransmitters and other chemicals produced in your gut also affect your brain. By altering the types of bacteria in your gut, it may be possible to improve your brain health. This crossover in communication between the brain and digestive system is opening up new ways for researchers to think about diseases. Not only do the gut and the brain communicate through the nervous system, but also through hormones, and the immune system.
Some Facts about the Gut-Brain Connection
There’s a bacterial population that lives in your intestine called the gut microbiota.
Unique to every individual, the gut microbiota consists of tens of trillions of microorganisms and can weigh up to six pounds. We acquire much of these bacteria as infants when we pass through the birth canal during delivery, but other factors, such as antibiotic use or birth by Cesarean section, can influence bacterial levels.
It’s long been known that the brain communicates with the gut — think of “gut-wrenching” moments or “following your gut” — but recent research suggests the gut-brain connection actually goes in both directions. Research shows that altering bacteria in the gut through specific diets may help to treat stress-related and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and hyperactivity.
There is still much to learn about how gut microbiota influence the brain, but related studies can help scientists better understand and develop ways to support new treatment and therapies.
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