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More Than Just a Feeling: How Your Gut and Brain are Linked

Have you ever wondered why you get a weird feeling in your stomach when you feel nervous or anxious? You’re just overhearing a conversation between your gut and your brain. The gut is considered your “second brain” because it is made of the same tissue and contains some of the same neurotransmitters that are found in the brain in your head.

This network within your body is called the gut-brain axis. These two organs act similarly to twins. They are innately connected; when there is a problem with one organ, both are negatively affected. For example, research shows that high levels of unhealthy gut bacteria can lead to mental fatigue, like lack of mental clarity and poor concentration. But, how are the brain and gut actually connected? 

The Brain and Gut are Connected, Literally

outline of a brain using blocks

 

Thanks to the nervous system, the brain and gut are directly connected. While the human brain contains 100 billion neurons, the gut houses 500 million of its own! The neurons in the gut are connected to the nervous system, which brings messages to and from the brain. One of the major and most important nerves connecting these two organs is the vagus nerve, which is responsible for delivering information like stress, anxiety and fear. This is where that “gut feeling” comes from. In some animal studies, stress was shown to inhibit vagus nerve signals and increase stomach problems.

Additionally, both the brain and gut produce neurotransmitters that influence your feelings and emotions. For example, serotonin provides the feeling of happiness and is largely produced in your gut. Antidepressant medications are meant to affect your mind, but this connection can cause your gut to be influenced too. When antidepressant medications are taken in the form of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), stomach issues are a common side effect, likely due to the increase in serotonin levels.

When Your Gut Springs a Leak

Your gut is filled with both good and bad bacteria. When the balance in the millions of bacteria in your gut is disturbed, your body can be negatively affected. One of the most common problems that can arise is called “leaky gut.” When the gut has too much bad bacteria, the intestinal wall can malfunction, allowing bacteria and toxins to pass through into your blood. Digestive problems, bloating and lethargy are all symptoms of a leaky gut.

When you’re experiencing a leaky gut, the inflammatory toxin Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) can be produced. Both inflammation and high amounts of LPS in the blood have been linked to brain conditions like severe depression and schizophrenia.

How Probiotics Help Support the Connection 

Probiotics work to restore the balance in your gut by bringing good bacteria in and moving bad bacteria out. In multiple studies, taking probiotics demonstrated a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Plus, probiotics have been known to improve a person's overall mood. This all further supports the connection between the brain and the gut, and how your brain heavily depends on you to take good care of its counterpart.

Smarter Nutrition Gut Health is created with soil-based probiotics that are naturally shelf-stable. Most of the probiotic formulas you see in stores use cheap probiotic strains that are extremely fragile. These types of probiotics must be refrigerated and they immediately begin to die off at room temperature—and forget about what they're like when they finally reach your stomach! The probiotics in Smarter Nutrition Gut Health survive both heat and stomach acid in order to provide maximum support to your gut. Plus, the Smarter Nutrition Gut Health formula includes prebiotics, which are essential to keeping your good bacteria healthy and growing.

Brain Food

Brain foods

 

There are many nutrients and foods that have been shown to positively impact both your brain your gut, including:

  • Fermented foods  If you’ve heard more about fermented foods in recent years, there’s a big reason why. Eating fermented foods can increase the number of probiotics in your gut. We recommend foods like kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut.
  • Omega-3 fats Experts suggest eating two servings of fatty fish, like salmon, each week to receive omega-3’s full benefits. Studies have shown that omega 3’s can simultaneously boost good gut bacteria while reducing the risk of brain disorders, which supports the important link between the gut and brain.

If you’re not a fish fan, that’s okay! Supplementing your diet with Smarter Omega-3 gives you the same benefits and more. Smarter Omega-3 is packed with more than 1800 mg of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) from wild-caught Pollock and Pacific Whiting and dynamic ingredients like olive fruit, grape seed extract, and sesame seed to support your circulatory, immune and nervous systems.

  • Fibrous Foods  Eating fiber-filled foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts provide prebiotics to your gut.
  • Polyphenols A compound naturally found in plant foods, polyphenols are in dark chocolate, tea, olive oil and berries—just to name a few. Polyphenols are said to help digestion because they support the growth of good gut bacteria while defending your gut from bad bacteria.

However, there are certain foods you should limit to support your gut-brain axis, such as:

  • Sugar  Foods with added sugar feed bad bacteria, causing problems in your gut.
  • Soda Artificial sweeteners are still being studied, but they’ve already shown that they can negatively change the microbe population in your gut. Plus, they have uncomfortable side effects like burping and bloating.
  • Red meat  While eating red meat can be beneficial for brain health, studies have shown it can lower the microbe count in your gut. You don’t have to say goodbye to burgers for good, but you are discouraged from consuming red meat in excessive amounts.

Keep in Mind

The link between your brain and gut has an immense effect on your mental health. When you take care of your gut, your brain and overall wellbeing is positively impacted. Although life can get in the way, probiotics can help restore your body when it needs a little help.

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