Monday, March 7, 2011

What is the Gut/Brain Connection?

by Glen Depke

So you think your brain is all in your head? Well, think again. Obviously it starts in your head but your brain extends into the brain stem, from there this leads to the vagus nerve which then extends throughout the gastrointestinal system. Yes that same nerve tissue that is within your brain extends into the gut and oh, what a connection!

Seriously about 90% of your brain output is directed through the vagus nerve and due to this lower brain dysfunction very often leads to digestive difficulties without any noticeable sign of neural degeneration. It is actually suggested that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is the result of a “disturbed” neural function along the gut/brain connection.

The gut/brain connection is a parasympathetic activity and does not react well to chronic stress. When under stress there is a significant suppression of blood flow to the gut and stress has an accumulative effect on the brain. This is one of the many reasons why emotional release is so important in my practice with my clients. It has been shown that anywhere from 50 to 90% of chronic gut challenges is also dealing with psychiatric disorders. The other challenge that arises out of this is within your immune system function due to the fact that approximately 80% of your immune system function originates in the gut.

For my left brain followers, let’s take a quick look at the neurology of gastrointestinal activity. The frontal cortex excites the vagal nuclei to activate the gut motility and enzyme secretion. The insular cortex actually lets the brain know where the gut is. The vagal nuclei which is affected by both of these cortexes activates the intestinal motor cells for gut motility, regulates the gut blood flow and activates the release of intestinal enzymes. From there, the enteric nervous system generates intestinal motility, generates enzyme release and provides input to the vagus nerve. And the cycle continues…

It is also important to understand that this gut/brain connection goes both ways. You can also be living with a gut challenge that will then affect brain function. This is typically due to inflammation within the gut. Remember that gut inflammation decreases neuron function and honestly most people are living with chronic gut inflammation on a daily basis. See last month’s article on leaky gut or other posts on gluten intolerance.

Some other keys to remember is that brain fog is a sign of neural inflammation often due to gut inflammation and if consuming a particular food affects your ability to think, it is suggested to address both the brain and the gut. Another significant factor is the result of a physical brain trauma. Often brain trauma leads to gut dysfunction.

The noticeable brain symptoms tied into the gut/brain connection are listed below.
• Brain Fog
• Poor Brain Function
• Cold Hands and Feet
• Inability to Experience Joy or to Motivate
• Easily Upset of Feelings of Worthlessness
• Poor Memory or Difficulty Learning
• Anxiety or Nervousness

Other important distinctions to reveal is the ghrelin which is a hormone produced in the gut, has a stimulating effect on neurotransmitters, poor brain function can lead to dysbiosis (poor bacteria balance), and dysbiosis can lead to depression.

So what can you do? Depending on the symptoms you are experiencing, there are specific supplements you can use to allow your body to balance that particular area of the gut/brain connection. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, it is advised to get up and move, since movement will activate your neurological system.

To get moving in the right direction, assess you likelihood of gluten intolerance by visiting Depke Wellness and following the Gluten Intolerance link and complete the questionnaire linked at the bottom of that page. Be sure to take your probiotic on a regular basis. Personally I use a probiotic called Ba-Co-Flor which I get from Germany. I have used this with my clients and personally for over 10 years with great results. If you would like information on this, you would have to contact me directly at 949.954.6226 or email me at

Another step is to address leaky gut if this is a challenge. If you did not read the article on leaky gut I would suggest you visit this to understand the likelihood of this being a challenge. Click here to view this article.

If you are interested in hearing more about the specific supplements used per neurological symptoms as listed above, leaky gut or any other challenge to the gut/brain connection, feel free to register here for a FREE 20 minute phone consultation to understand my protocols used with my clients.

If you have any other questions or comments, feel free to leave your post below and I will address this personally.

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