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Gut And Brain Health And How They're Connected

They say you are what you eat. What this saying really means that our gut health is critical to maintain a healthy mind, body, and to increase mood. So how are the gut and what we eat so linked to all of this?

Before we dive into how our gut helps our mood and brain here’s some fun facts!

Fun Facts about Gut Health

  • Gut health about 70% of our immune system lives in our gut.

  • Your gut has its own nervous system known as the enteric nervous system

  • About 95% of your serotonin is located in your gut.

  • Food does affect your mood.

  • A healthy gut can protect your bones.

Gut Health and Brain how are they connected?

Communication between gut and brain is called the gut brain axis.The communication happens between the central and the enteric nervous system. This links emotional stress and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions. These functions include immune activation, intestinal permeability, enteric reflex, entero-endocrine signaling, and gastro intestinal microbiome.

The stomach is known to have it’s own brain. This is referred to the enteric nervous system. This is a main function in the autonomic nervous system. This system is the operator for the gastrointestinal tract. It is derived from neural crest cells. The gastrointestinal tract is the tract from the mouth to the anus. There are 100 billion neurons in the brain and 500 million neurons in the gut. This is connected through the vagus nerve which sends signals in both directions.

The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve in our body and is the longest nerve. The vagus nerve plays a role in the brain and gut axis along with stress. 90% of the signal communicated from the brain to the gut happens in a bottom up manner. Meaning the signal starts in the gut then goes to the brain. Most of this signaling happening is generated through our gut bacteria. The vagus nerve has links in the brain associated with stress, hunger, emotions, and mood regulations. Gastrointestinal microbiomes can impact anxiety and depression.

In our gut we have about 3-6 pounds of microorganisms bacteria, protozoa and viruses that live there that help digest food, synthesize vitamins and help the immune system to harmful pathogens.

How to keep Gut Healthy!

Probiotics that have been linked to brain health are called psycoprobiotics.

Some psycoprobiotics include:

Bifidobacteria Species: B. longum, B. bifidum, B. breve, B. infantis, B. bulgaricus

B. Longum helps reduce depression and anxiety.

B. bifidum helps generates K and B-12 vitamins.

B.breve helps protect from infection and inflammation.

B infantis can alter serotonin levels and also increases relaxation in rats


Lactobacillus Species: L. helveticus, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and L. acidophilus

L. Helveticus helps improves blood pressure and helps improves sleep

L.rhamnosus helps protect against cavities and helps prevent UTI’s

L. plantarum increase serotonin and dopamine in rats along with reducing rats anxiety

L. reuteri can help increase excitability and have an anti pain effect.

L. casei

L. Blugaricus

L. acidophilus- helps reduce cholesterol and supports nutrient absorption

Foods that have these:

Sauerkraut- L. plantarum and B. bifidum

Kimchi- L. plantarum

Greek Yogurt- B. infantis, B. bifidum, lactobacillus

Kefir- B.infantis, B. bifidum, lactobacillus

Pickles- L. plantarum

Kombucha- Lactobacillus

Italian and Swiss Cheese-L. Helveticus

From gut bacteria GABA, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, catecholamines, and acetylcholine can be produced by gut bacteria. When the gut brain axis is not functioning properly there has been links to anxiety, depression, autism, and schizophrenia. Gut bacteria, bile acid, and genes involved in their production are altered during stress and social disorders.

Psychobiotics can all affect the body’s stress response. The stress response system involves the brain, adrenal glands, boosting mood, anxiety, and depression.


Prebiotics are special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in your gut. This makes your digestive system work better

Prozac dark chocolate acts as a prebiotic enhancing growth of bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Helping to boost mood.

Gut health plays an important role for inflammation and the immune system by controlling what is excreted by the body and what is passed into the body. Inflammation in the body has been associated with depression, dementia, and schizophrenia.

Gut health is critical and can influence brain function. To boost our well being it will be interesting to see psychobiotic cocktails incorporated to one's health.


Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice, 7(4), 987.

Daulatzai MA. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity triggers gut dysbiosis, neuroinflammation, gut-brain axis dysfunction, and vulnerability for dementia. CNS Neurol Disord 2015;14:110-31

Publishing, H. (n.d.). The gut-brain connection. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from

Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Hamady M, et al. The human microbiome project: exploring the microbial part of ourselves in a changing world. Nature 2007;449:804-10.

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