Mediaplanet: The Brain-Gut Connection
Our executive director, Kelsey Cheyne spoke with mediaplanet for their 2022 Gut Health Campaign on the Brain-Gut Connection.
Your digestive tract comprises 100 million mesh-like body neurons, the network of nerve cells referred to as the enteric nervous system. It’s so extensive that some scientists call the enteric nervous system our “second brain.”
The vagus nerve (a thick cable of neurons running between the base of the brain and our gut) allows the brain and the gut to communicate with each other, with information flowing bi-directionally. This is also known as the gut-brain axis.
The vagus nerve isn’t the only way the brain and gut communicate — your gut microbiota also participates in these conversations. The gut microbiota refers to the trillions of microbes that reside in your gut and play an integral role in your health.
The gut microbiota communicates by producing and storing over 30 neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the body). In fact, your gut microbiota produces over 95 percent of serotonin (known as “the happy chemical”), directly affecting your mood and well-being. What’s more, about 80 to 90 percent of the neurons in the vagus nerve are actually sending messages from the gut to the brain, with 10 to 20 percent sending commands from the brain to control muscles that move food through the gut. This means the signals generated in the gut can massively influence the brain. This can explain why digestive problems can cause anxiety and stress.