How does our gut, the so-called second brain, affect mood, immune function and cognition?
Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria and other microbes that communicate with our brain. Much of this communication takes place via the vagus nerve and is part of the gut-brain axis. These and other discoveries have earned the gut microbiome the nickname ‘second brain’.
Naveen Jain, founder of theViome microbiota tests, helps us understand how our second brain affects mood, immune function and cognition.
An overview of the gut microbiome
Getting to know the enteric nervous system: the brain of our gut
What is the gut-brain axis?
The brain controls most bodily functions by sending direct messages through our central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of a complex system of nerves that run down our spine and branch out throughout the body.
But our gut has a mind of its own, including its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS). Scientists often refer to this system as our ‘second brain’.
This system is in constant communication with our CNS, sending messages back and forth.
Many of these conversations consist of cognitive and emotional messages. This is why, when we have misplaced our wallet or keys, we can feel a sense of anxiety that often manifests itself in our gut.
Scientists have increasing evidence that microbial activity can :
– affect hormone signalling
– alter our intestinal permeability, i.e. cause leaky gut
– produce metabolites that are useful – or harmful – to our bodies
– affect our immune system: 70% of our immune system is housed in the walls of our gut microbiome
Direct changes in gut health can influence our behaviour [and vice versa] and cause changes in mood.
Intestinal dysbiosis: how does it affect our mood?
When we experience a wave of inflammation in our gut, many health experts immediately think of one thing: gut dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis can be defined as an imbalance between the types of organisms present in a person’s natural microflora, particularly in the gut, which is thought to contribute to a range of health problems.
Gut dysbiosis has been shown to produce a significant immune response.
When inflammation reaches the central nervous system, it can interfere with signals to the brain and cause psychological distress. Reducing the inflammation produced in the gut can improve its grip on our central nervous system, by stabilising our gut ecosystem.
Reducing the inflammation produced in the gut can improve its grip on our central nervous system, while stabilising our gut ecosystem.
Functional dysbiosis of the microbiome is very different from the microbiome dysbiosis often described in the literature. Functional dysbiosis is a combination of a person’s diet and their microbiome. Given a person’s microbiome, the consumption of specific foods or supplements may protect against leaky gut, while the consumption of other foods and supplements may lead to leaky gut.
What is the link between leaky gut and mood imbalance?
The main cause of leaky gut syndrome is a functional dysbiosis of the gut microbiome. Stress and acute intestinal infections can also contribute to FBS in some people.
The body’s inflammatory response can affect a variety of neurocognitive disorders, as the brain releases pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that, in excess, can lead to mental health and mood disorders.
Symptoms of leaky gut include
– irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
– Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
– polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
– joint pain
– a form of skin rash
– brain fog
How do we measure the health of our gut microbiome?
Viome’s Health Intelligence test uses a stool and blood sample to analyse an individual’s microbial and human genetic expressions.
We can see what the microbes are producing and whether it is beneficial (nutrients) or causing inflammation (toxins).
This test also allows us to see the impact of the gut microbiome on our “host” or human side, which gives us insight into our cellular health, immune system health, biological age, etc.
We can read the “signals” the body is sending about the state of our gut health.
Here are some other things that the health of the gut microbiome can reveal about an individual’s diet and overall health:
– eating more protein than the gut microbiome can handle
– eating too much salt
– a plant virus causes inflammation in the gut
– spinach has an impact on his personal risk of kidney stones
– her cells show signs of stress
– which gives her gas
– whether she should go easy on seafood
And much more!
The future of microbiome and gut research?
What ideas or trends are we seeing today about gut health?
Advances in various “omics” fields continue to develop the genome, transcriptome, proteome, metabolome, microbiome, epigenome and exposome to create a holistic map of our biology and guide us towards better health.
The combination of this mapping, new data collection methods and artificial intelligence makes it possible to personalise all aspects of our lives. From diet to medicine to recommended lifestyle habits.
Where there was previously no way to make sense of massive amounts of data to identify trends and patterns specific to an individual, today’s technology allows us to solve these problems much faster than ever before.
AI allows us to identify patterns in an individual’s biology and associate those patterns (scores) with the exact nutrients that that individual needs. In addition, we are also able to see whether a person is moving towards or away from a particular chronic disease.
Our research into the use of mRNA technology and advanced AI platforms to screen for oral and throat cancer has recently received FDA approval. We look forward to seeing where this data takes us.
Learn more about our neuroscience-based HATAHE programmes.