Is Our Gut Our 2nd Brain? The Mind-Gut Connection Explained
By now you’ve most likely heard the big news: your gut is your considered your second brain and it needs some extra attention. This is especially true when it comes to your mental health. With anxiety and depression being the leading cause of disability in 2020 with 40 million people suffering globally, it’s time that we start to take a holistic approach in addressing the matter and for that science is taking a bottom up approach.
The term “microbiome” gets thrown around quite a bit when chatting about gut health. Let’s break it down so you can g(u)t a better idea of what’s going on.
The microbiome beings as soon as you pass through the birth canal. As you exit the womb, you’re covered in this healthy bacteria which then grows into this 3 pound mass known as the microbiome. Research has found that humans are made up of 90% microbes and only 10% human cells.
During the early stages of life (from birth until the age of 3), these bacteria are sensitive and the foundation of health is being built. During this time it’s very crucial to ensure that these bacteria are in healthy balance referred to as homeostasis.
Your gut microbiome grows to be incredibly intelligent. It is made up of 100 trillion of these tiny bacteria that influence almost every function in your body. These bacteria control your weight, mood, sleep, skin, and brain health, which is why it’s important to make sure they stay balanced and well fueled.
The state of your gut can be the reason you feel fabulous or why you feel sluggish.
But, why is the gut called the second brain?
There are a few key reasons for the gut being referred to as the second brain.
The first reason we call it our “second brain”, is that the microbiome controls almost everything about us. Such as:
- Your genetics
- Your healthy weight balance
- The foods you crave
- The quality of your sleep
- Your immunity
- Your hormones
- What’s happening with your skin
- How you feel and think
This is why I would arguably say that it is our first brain!
Secondly being that it runs entirely on its own through the Enteric Nervous System. You don’t have to tell yourself to digest your food or your heart to breathe, do you? The brain, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, and gut all make up this system.
The Enteric Nervous System is home to the longest cranial nerve called the vagus nerve, something we refer to in my programs as the “wandering nerve”. The vagus nerve sends out these signals called “action potentials” that keeps everything running smoothly in the body.
The communication is entirely automatic and 90 percent of the communication that runs through this vagus nerve is from the gut to the brain, meaning your gut is continually influencing how your brain functions through this gut-brain connection.
You’ve most likely used the phrases “I have butterflies in my stomach” or maybe you’ve had a “gut wrenching experience” where you felt your fears in your stomach. These phrases aren’t just a play on words but have some truth to them as the brain and gut have a sensitive relationship.
Your gut is home to over 100 million neurons; that’s as many as your spinal column. On top of that, it is home to 30 different neurotransmitters; that’s as many as in your brain! And it is the powerhouse of your immunity with 85 percent of your immunity being held between your gut wall.
The communication between the gut and the brain is a two-way street. An imbalanced and inflamed gut can send signals to the brain, just as an imbalanced and inflamed brain can send signals to the gut. This is why when working with clients I often see those suffering from also suffering from anxiety or depression and vice versa.
Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause and/or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
What research is now finding is that 90 percent of your serotonin -- your happy hormone-- and 50 percent of your dopamine -- your reward hormone-- is housed in your gut lining. So, with 90 percent of your happiness being held in your gut and 80 to 90 percent of that communication through the vagus nerve being from your gut to your brain, it makes sense to tune into what you’re eating to tackle depression, anxiety, and stress.
So, now what?
Simply put: when you have an inflamed gut, you have an inflamed brain and when you have an inflamed brain you can have an inflamed gut. To see relief in one, it starts with tackling inflammation. This is why when working with students in the , we take the dual approach for fighting inflammation.
Tuning into your nutrition is the first step in healing your anxiety and depression using a holistic approach. Figuring out your trigger foods and then eliminating them to allow the body to heal will do wonders for the mind, body, and soul.
Next, you also want to focus on what’s happening outside of your plate. You can drink all the green juice and eat all the kale salads, but if you’re not dealing with what’s going on inside your head you’re only fighting half the battle.
Tuning into your stress management, your eating habits, your relationships, and your environments will create a platform to set you up for success.
If you’re someone that is looking for a holistic approach to healing your anxiety and depression, check out the Gut Recharge Program. We cover topics like this and so much more so that you can heal for good.
This article has been republished with permission from PurelyB.