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The gut-brain axis

Dr. Adrian Weingart

The gut-brain axis


If you don't have anything in your head, you don't have anything in your intestines either. You're probably thinking, what do these two things have to do with each other? But this statement isn't entirely out of thin air.
Pictures such as "I have a heavy stomach," "I get sick just thinking about it," or "I'll make my own decisions about this gut feeling”, are no coincidence. Because there is a direct connection between our head and our gastrointestinal tract, the so-called gut-brain axis.

But what exactly is the gut-brain axis?

The gut-brain communication takes place via the gut-brain axis, which runs in both directions via nerve tracts, hormones or metabolic products from our intestinal bacteria. In particular via the so-called Nervus Vagus, a kind of nerve highway that stretches from the brainstem to the large intestine and sends signals back and forth between the central nervous system and the microorganisms in the intestine. Amazingly, 90% of communication comes from the gut and only 10% of the signals from our brain.
The enteric nervous system (ENS), a network of over 100 million nerve cells that runs through the intestinal wall, is significantly involved in microbiome communication. In the ENS, the neurotransmitters synthesized by the microorganisms are perceived by chemosensors and can thus communicate with the vagus nerve and the brain and pass on information. Due to the high number of nerve cells and the intensive exchange between the gut and the brain, the gut is also called the "abdominal brain" or "second brain".
Another communication channel between the gut and the brain is controlled by hormones such as e.g. dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neuropeptides and messenger substances also form part of this system. These include, for example, short-chain fatty acids and tryptophan. The microorganisms that communicate with the central nervous system (CNS) are also referred to as the "psychobiome" due to the expansion of the gut-brain axis around the microbiome. For example, if the digestive tract is irritated due to inflammation, a message is sent to the brain and processed there. For example, a reaction of the immune system can be activated. Conversely, when we feel stressed, the brain sends signals to the ENS, which in turn can cause gastrointestinal distress.

→ So what can we do to keep or restore the gut-brain axis in balance?

It's important to pay attention to a healthy and balanced diet, because it's not just your intestinal flora that benefits! When the intestines are doing well, they send a positive signal to the brain, which benefits the psyche and general well-being. You can also do something good for your gut and your psyche by avoiding or reducing excessive stress through meditation or physical exercise, for example. Since it can often be difficult to integrate these measures into everyday life, are also excellent probiotics< as a supplement t5>, with which we can actively support our microbiome.
You can find more interesting information in our Healthy Guide on the topic "Stress and intestinal health". Here the gut-brain axis is explained again in more detail and based on scientific facts. It also covers what you can do to manipulate the gut-brain axis, what stress has to do with it and of course what things are best for reducing stress.

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