The Powerful Connection Between the Brain and Gut

Have you ever had a gut feeling about something, or experienced "butterflies" in your stomach when nervous? These common expressions may have more truth to them than we realise. The gut and brain are intimately connected, and research is revealing just how powerful this link can be.


The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system, which governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract. This communication occurs via a complex network of neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune cells.


One key player in this system is the vagus nerve, which runs from the brainstem to the abdomen and is responsible for many important bodily functions, including digestion, heart rate, and breathing. The vagus nerve plays a crucial role in relaying information between the gut and brain, with signals travelling in both directions.


Research has shown that disruptions to the gut microbiome, the collection of microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract, can have profound effects on brain function and behaviour. For example, studies have found that gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut bacteria, is associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder.


In addition, the gut microbiome produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating mood, cognition, and behaviour, and their production in the gut can influence their availability in the brain.


The gut-brain axis is also thought to play a role in the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Emerging evidence suggests that inflammation in the gut can trigger inflammation in the brain, leading to cognitive decline and other neurological symptoms.


So what can we do to support a healthy gut-brain axis? One key factor is maintaining a diverse and balanced gut microbiome. This can be achieved through a healthy diet rich in fibre and fermented foods, as well as probiotics and prebiotics.


Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and exercise can also help to promote a healthy gut-brain axis, as stress can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and trigger inflammation. Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and avoiding antibiotics unless necessary is also important for maintaining gut health.


In summary, the gut and brain are closely connected, and disruptions to this axis can have profound effects on physical and mental health. By taking steps to support a healthy gut microbiome and reduce stress, we can promote the optimal functioning of this important communication system and support overall health and well-being.




1. Mayer, E. A. (2011). Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut-brain communication. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12(8), 453-466.
2. Kelly, J. R., Kennedy, P. J., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G., Clarke, G., & Hyland, N. P. (2015). Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9, 392.
    Back to blog