How is Immunity & Mental Health Connected to the Gut-Brain Axis

Did you know that you have more than one brain? In recent years, scientists and researchers have discovered that the bacteria in our gut acts like a “little brain” that influences not only our gut health but also our cognitive health. While research is still in its infancy, scientists have discovered that mental health issues and cognitive impairment could be more complicated than just an issue in our brain. However, this also means that we may have more solutions to treat those suffering from mental health issues.

What is the Gut Microbiome?

Our microbiome is vast and intricate. While it was once thought that the bacteria in our gut was just responsible for aiding digestion, scientists are now realizing that our microbiome does so much more. The human microbiome is “all microorganisms in the human body and their respective genetic material”. (1) There are about 100 trillion bacteria in our intestines that outnumber our own cells ten to one. (2) The main role this bacteria plays in our gastrointestinal tract is aiding digestion, breaking down nutrients, working with our immune system, as well as communicating with the brain. (3)

The Gut-Brain Axis

The communication between our gut microbiome and our brain is called the Gut-Brain Axis.Scientists have discovered that our gastrointestinal tract has its own neural network with nerve cells lining the entire tract from mouth to rectum. (4) In addition, our gut produces neurotransmitters that influence our brain chemistry. For example, serotonin, a neurotransmitter largely responsible for regulating depression and anxiety, is produced mainly in the gut. (5) Conversely, our gut bacteria responds to these neurotransmitters just like our brain does which means that our brain influences our gut bacteria as well. (6) If our gut is happy, our brain will be happy and vice versa.

The connection between our gut and brain can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health. Inflammation in our gut can lead to holes in our intestinal lining called leaky gut.Our immune system responds to gut inflammation by attacking the digestive tract causing even more holes in our intestinal lining. Food particles and pathogens can then seep into our bloodstream, enter our central nervous system, and even pass through the blood-brain barrier. (7) Scientists have discovered that this process can trigger autoimmune diseases which is when the immune system continually attacks certain areas of the body. (8) Furthermore, chronic inflammation and an overactive immune system has been correlated with mental health disorders.(9) Our gastrointestinal system sends signals to our brain that can alter our mood and can cause disorders such as bipolar, depression, and schizophrenia. (10) Not only that, but stress can change the bacteria makeup of our gut making us susceptible to illness and, like a feedback loop, more susceptible to mental health issues. (11)

What Can You Do?

“Our intestinal bacteria is profoundly shaped by our dietary habits.”

- (12)

Changes in dietary habits can mitigate autoimmune conditions and even may reverse them. (13) Our microbiome is largely influenced by what we are consuming. Eating clean, organic, and non-processed foods and supplements, while minimizing added sugar and alcohol consumption, can profoundly improve your gut health. Scientists are also discovering that various forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can calm the mind and ease gut issues. (14)

One exciting discovery is that scientists have found that probiotics can play a huge role in healing the gut and boosting cognitive health. While more research needs to be conducted, scientists are finding that probiotics help reduce inflammation, prevent neural dysfunction, and can reduce cortisol levels thereby decreasing anxiety and depression. In fact, probiotics may have a similar effect as antidepressants! (15)

Stress Infographic

Living Alchemy is committed to formulating the best clean supplements for your gut and full body health! We created Your Flora SYMBIOTICS, a fermented, whole food delivery of probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, and nutrients, to give you everything you need to heal your gut and get back to feeling your best. In addition, we have our ALIVE Series of fermented adaptogens to help you adapt to stress and anxiety so that you can experience mental calm and an uplifted mood. Finally, we created WISDOM, a powerhouse of fermented herbs and lion’s mane mushroom, to help boost your cognition, repair cognitive damage and keep you sharp!

For more details on Living Alchemy’s fermented, whole food supplements, please visit our website or send as an email at [email protected]. We would be happy to discuss with you how you can heal your gut and your mind through fermented whole foods!

References:

1. Clapp, Megan. Sept 15, 2017. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Accessed April 17, 2020.

2. Carpenter, Siri. September 2012. That gut feeling. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling Accessed April 17, 2020.

3. John Hopkins Medicine. The Brain-Gut Connection. John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection Accessed April 18, 2020.

4. John Hopkins Medicine. The Brain-Gut Connection. John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection Accessed April 18, 2020.

5. Carpenter, Siri. September 2012. That gut feeling. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling Accessed April 17, 2020.

6. Carpenter, Siri. September 2012. That gut feeling. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling Accessed April 17, 2020.

7. Clapp, Megan. Sept 15, 2017. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Accessed April 17, 2020.

8. Wekerle, Hartmut. December 2016. The gut–brain connection: triggering of brain autoimmune disease by commensal gut bacteria. Rheumatology. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/55/suppl_2/ii68/2892202 Accessed April 17, 2020.

9. Clapp, Megan. Sept 15, 2017. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Accessed April 17, 2020.

10. McQuillan, Susan. Nov 18, 2018. The Gut Brain Connection: How Gut Health Affects Mental Health. PSYCOM. https://www.psycom.net/the-gut-brain-connection Accessed April 18, 2020.

11. Carpenter, Siri. September 2012. That gut feeling. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling Accessed April 17, 2020.

12. Wekerle, Hartmut. December 2016. The gut–brain connection: triggering of brain autoimmune disease by commensal gut bacteria. Rheumatology. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/55/suppl_2/ii68/2892202 Accessed April 17, 2020.

13. John Hopkins Medicine. The Brain-Gut Connection. John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection Accessed April 18, 2020.

14. Clapp, Megan. Sept 15, 2017. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Accessed April 17, 2020.

15. Clapp, Megan. Sept 15, 2017. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ Accessed April 17, 2020.