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Brain-Gut Axis

Brain and Gut read each other

‘The brain is wider than the sky.’ Lovingly said by Emily Dickinson, an American poet. But have you ever heard anything this poetically said about the gut? Any reference where the slimy gut is beautifully quoted? The probability is close to none. But we think this organ with a surface area even larger than the skin is generally more underrated than it deserves to be.

There is tons of literature written on the praise of the brain, and how it beautifully weaves ideas and emotions and controls every aspect of the human body. But what if we tell you that the most ignored organ of your body, the gut, is nothing less if not equal to the brain.

In fact, the gut is your second brain.  And all the gut feelings and emotions you routinely get are actually a result of the physical changes that occur in this organ. And by controlling what you feed it, you can actually take control of your health, wellbeing, and the brain itself.

 

GUT: YOUR SECOND BRAIN

‘All disease begins in the gut!’ Hippocrates said it 2,000 years ago and today science has validated his claim on some grounds. But the gut serves more than just another site for the origin of diseases. It also works as a smart intelligent organ on a similar level as the brain itself due to its rich physiological contents.

The gut hosts nearly one hundred trillion bacteria, more nerves than the entire spinal cord, and about 80% of the immune cells of the body. It also has its own nervous system aka the Enteric nervous system to regulate its own blood flow, enzyme and bile secretion and the movements of the organ itself etc.

The gastrointestinal system as a whole is also sensitive to the chemical changes or simply the emotions that your brain experiences. The reason why anxiety gives stomach cramps and looking or hearing something distasteful makes one nauseous. Similarly, the thought of food kicks in salivation and stress causes the loss of appetite. The gut is also known to be equipped with the feature of memory. It remembers the past experiences such as taste or distaste any food has previously caused when presented again. This happens through the release of dopamine that directly acts on the vomiting center in the brain and trigger nausea.

But the question now arises how these two organs placed anatomically so far apart, with different compositions and known functions impact this significantly to one another?

This is possible through the gut-brain axis; the intricate connection the two organs share in between.

 

What is the gut-brain axis (GBA)?

The gut-brain axis (GBA) is a bidirectional communication that is present between the central (brain and spinal cord) and the enteric nervous system. This communication not only links the emotional but also the cognitive centers of the brain with the gut.  The exchange of information in the gut-brain axis occurs through the neuro-immuno-endocrine mediators, which means both the organs are physically as well as biochemically connected. The resident bacteria of the gut that are called also called its normal flora also have a significant influence on this communication channel.

The three main components of the gut-brain axis are:

 

The vagus nerve

The vagus nerve serves as the biggest nerve that physically connects the gut to the brain and acts as the main junction through which the exchange of information occurs between the two.
GBA is the reason why any stimulant that triggers a response in the brain also bring visible changes to the gut. For example, the stress inhibits the vagus nerve signaling and also bring about gastrointestinal problems.

 

Neurotransmitters

The neurotransmitters are chemicals that also act as messenger similar to the vagus nerve in the gut-brain axis. They are known to regulate the emotions a person experiences. Common neurotransmitters secreted by gut are serotonin and GABA gamma-aminobutyric acid etc.

 

Normal flora of the gut

The trillions of bacteria that reside in the gut not only protect the body from the foreign infectious bacteria that enter with food, but also forms the most important constituents of the gut-brain axis. They are responsible for serotonin production; the neurotransmitter that contributes to the feeling of happiness and well-being. Therefore, any disruption of the normal flora can decrease the levels of serotonin and manifest clinically as depression.

Similarly, GABA is another neurotransmitter produced by the microbes of the gut that controls the emotions of fear and anxiety. Studies show that consumption of certain probiotics can increase the production of GABA and reduce anxiety and depression-like behavior.

The gut microbes also produce short-chain fatty acids, that influence brain functions such as reducing appetite and forming the blood-brain barrier.


Probiotics, Prebiotics and the Gut-Brain Axis

So now that we have established the role of the gut microbes in the GBA, it becomes crystal clear that improving the status of these microbes greatly benefit brain health. This can be achieved by consumption of probiotics: that are live bacteria that when consumed via food impart many health benefits. There are a variety of probiotics available that have different health-related advantages.

Probiotics specifically targeting brain health are known as psychobiotics: these relieve the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters priory mentioned.

Similarly, prebiotics is fiber-based food ingredients that when consumed promotes the growth of beneficial microbes in the intestines.

Lactobacillus Johnsonii is a lactic acid bacteria that is commonly found in the gut. It promotes digestion of proteins and polysaccharides along with generating many essentials nutrients such as vitamins and short chain fatty acids. Our product contains the noval strain of Lactobacillus johnsonii-the LJ88, that act as an effective probiotic. This strain is widey known for its dual beneficial actions on both the stomach and the intestines. LJ88 is the strongest gastric acid-resistant probiotic that is also reported to aid the elimination of H. pylori, an infectious bacteria that is the usual culprit behind peptic ulcers. It also prevents gastroesophageal reflux disease that occurs as a side effect of the medications used to treat H. pylori. This heat-killed microbe is safe to be consumed in a supplement preparation.
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