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– This is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace medical advice. Always have clients discuss any nutritional changes or supplements with a Registered Dietician or their primary care physician.
– BREIFLY review the findings from the research identifying the connection between the brain and the gut
– Differentiate gut health from proper nutrition
– Identify signs and consequences of poor gut health
– Explore the bidirectional relationship between the brain and the gut (second brain)
– Identify promising alternative approaches to treating mood (and other) disorders.
– Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world according to the World Health Organization. The effectiveness of the available antidepressant therapies is limited.
– Data from the literature suggest that some subtypes of depression may be associated with chronic low grade inflammation.
– The uncovering of the role of intestinal microbiota in the development of the immune system and its bidirectional communication with the brain have led to growing interest on reciprocal interactions between inflammation, microbiota and depression.
– The intestinal microbiota: A new player in depression? Encephale. 2018 Feb;44(1):67-74
– Gut microbiota appear to influence the development of emotional behavior, stress- and pain-modulation systems, and brain neurotransmitter systems
– Microbiota changes caused by illness, dietary changes, probiotics and antibiotics impact endocrine and neurocrine pathways (bottom up)
– The brain can in turn alter microbial composition and behavior via the autonomic nervous system (“stress”) (top down)
– Even mild stress can change the microbial balance in the gut, making the host more vulnerable to infectious disease and triggering a cascade of molecular reactions that feed back to the central nervous system

– Exposure to chronic stress decreased the relative abundance of Bacteroides species and increased the Clostridium species in the caecum; and caused activation of the immune system (i.e. inflammation)
– Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder treated with oral vancomycin —antibiotic to reduce Colostridium– had significant improvement in behavioral, cognitive and GI symptoms
– Acute and chronic stress increase GI and BBB permeability through activation of mast cells (MCs)
Gut Inflammation and Mood
– Inflammation of the GI Tract places stress on the microbiome through the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters.
– Coupled with the increase in intestinal permeability, these molecules then travel systemically.
– Elevated blood levels of cytokines TNF-a and MCP (monocyte chemoattractant protein) increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, enhancing the effects of rogue molecules from the permeable gut.
– Their release influences brain function, leading to anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
Gut-Brain Connection
– The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain. It sends signals in both directions
– In mice it was found that feeding them a probiotic reduced the amount of cortisol in their blood. However, when their vagus nerve was cut, the probiotic had no effect
– Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5
– Alterations in the gut microbial community have been implicated in multiple host diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, while recent evidence suggests a potential role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
– Research has found that tweaking the balance of gut bacteria can alter animal’s brain chemistry and lead it to become either more bold, anxious or depressed.
– A healthy gut absorbs nutrients sufficiently to support brain health.
– A healthy gut prevents bacteria and inflammation causing agents to “leak” into the bloodstream
– A healthy gut can adequately produce neurotransmitters
– Gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body's supply of serotonin