We are exploring the connection between the intestine and the brain

The intestine is not just a part of the digestive system but also a place where the crucial microbial balance takes place, exerting a profound influence on our overall health. We will explore how proper management of this “microbial metropolis” can be the key to maintaining the balance of the “microbiota-intestine-brain” axis and a balanced state of the body.

Scientific research confirms tight connections between the brain and the intestine through a third participant – the intestinal microbiota. This community of thousands of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, has a significant impact on the body’s functioning. The microbiota begins to form at birth and evolves under the influence of the environment and diet.


How the Brain Interacts with the Intestine


Perhaps one of the most intriguing mysteries of our physiological organism is the interaction between the brain and the intestine. This process is facilitated not only by chemical signals but also by forces released by our microbiota.

Neurotransmitters: Billions of microbes residing in the intestine release neurotransmitters – chemical substances that serve as mediators in the transmission of nerve signals. These messengers not only interact with the local intestinal nervous system but also send their messages to the brain through the bloodstream.

Serotonin: One of the key neurotransmitters produced by the microbiota is serotonin. This “happiness hormone” influences mood and emotional states. A high level of serotonin in the intestine is accompanied by an increase in its concentration in the brain, positively affecting overall emotional well-being.

Dopamine and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA): Other important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and GABA, also follow the rhythm of microbial symphony. They play a role in regulating intestinal motility and responses to stress.

Vagus Nerve: The central figure in this dance is the vagus nerve (or wandering nerve). This long nerve trunk connecting the brain and the intestine acts as a musical conductor, transmitting signal notes in both directions.

Regulation of the Autonomic Nervous System: The wandering nerve controls the autonomic nervous system, responsible for the body’s automatic functions, such as breathing, heart rhythm, and digestion. Its influence on the intestine is manifested in the control of gastric acid secretion, digestive enzymes, and regulation of intestinal movements.

Immunomodulation: The wandering nerve also participates in regulating the immune activity of the intestine. Its signals can influence protective mechanisms, maintaining a balance between immunity and tolerance to one’s tissues.

To maintain this harmonious balance between the brain and the intestine, it is necessary to take care of the microbiota. Regular restoration of balance through proper nutrition, including prebiotics and probiotics, can contribute to the health of microorganisms and, consequently, have a positive impact on overall physical and mental well-being.

Thus, not only do we, but also our microbes, dance in this intricate duet between the intestine and the brain. Understanding this symphony allows us to treat our health with care, thereby creating optimal conditions for an energetic and balanced lifestyle.


The Importance of Intestinal Microflora


Enteric Nervous System (ENS): One of the remarkable aspects of human physiology is the complex network of the enteric nervous system, consisting of 100–500 million neurons. This system, sometimes referred to as the second brain, plays a key role in regulating the body’s basic functions.


Functions of the enteric nervous system:


  1. Regulation of Blood Flow: The ENS controls blood flow to the walls of the intestine, ensuring sufficient nutrition and oxygen for its normal functioning.
  2. Secretion of Fluids and Hormones: This system regulates the secretion of important fluids and hormones necessary for digestion and maintaining overall balance in the body.
  3. Movement of Intestinal Contents: The ENS is responsible for coordinating the movements of the intestinal walls, ensuring efficient movement of the food bolus.
  4. Intestinal Barrier Function: Regulation of the permeability of the intestinal barrier, preventing unwanted penetration of harmful substances and microorganisms.
  5. Immune Activity: The ENS interacts with the immune system, controlling its activity and maintaining a balance between protection against harmful agents and tolerance to one’s tissues.

Microbes and Neurotransmitters:


Microbes residing in the intestine have a significant impact on the development and functioning of the enteric nervous system. This biological concert is manifested through the production of key neurotransmitters that influence nerve activity and a person’s psychoemotional state.

Serotonin and Dopamine: Microbes produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, responsible for mood regulation, and dopamine, influencing feelings of satisfaction and joy. These substances transfer their effects to the enteric nervous system, creating a balance in the emotional sphere.

Influence on ENS Development: It is important to note that microbes influence the development of the enteric nervous system, participating in the formation of neural connections and plasticity. This is especially crucial in early childhood when the foundation for long-term gut and nervous system health is established.

Maintaining Intestinal Health: A balanced and diverse gut microbiota plays a critical role in maintaining the health of the enteric nervous system. Regular restoration of this balance through proper nutrition, including prebiotics and probiotics, contributes to strengthening the connection between microbes and nerves, ensuring harmony in the functioning of this complex biological mechanism.


Consequences of Microbiota Imbalance


Microbiota imbalance, more commonly known as dysbiosis, is an imbalance in the composition and functionality of the intestinal microbiota, which can lead to a range of serious consequences for the body. Here is a more detailed overview of how dysbiosis can affect health, particularly at the level of the intestines and the brain.


Reduction in Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production and Risk of Depression

When the microbiota is disrupted and the level of butyrate, a crucial short-chain fatty acid, decreases, it can have several consequences. Butyrate plays a key role in reducing inflammation in the body. Therefore, when its production decreases due to dysbiosis, the level of inflammation may increase.

Increased inflammation, in turn, can elevate the risk of developing depression. Scientific studies establish a connection between inflammation and mental disorders, and microbiota imbalance becomes a contributing factor to this interaction.

Issues with Intestinal Permeability

The level of intestinal permeability, or the “leaky gut” syndrome, can also be significantly disturbed in dysbiosis. This condition is characterized by the intestinal walls becoming less dense, allowing toxins and bacteria to pass through them and enter the bloodstream.

Dysbiosis can worsen this scenario by increasing intestinal permeability. The increase in gut permeability may be associated with an increased risk of mental health problems. The extent of dysbiosis’s influence on this process requires further research, but existing data warns against neglecting the care of the intestinal microbiota.

Mental Health and Microbiota Balance

The state of the microbiota has a substantial impact on our mental health. Dysbiosis can be not only a source of physiological changes but also a factor contributing to mental disorders.

It is extremely important to support gut health through a balanced diet, including prebiotics and probiotics, to ensure optimal functioning of the microbial ecosystem. Regular attention to microbiota balance may be the key to improving not only physical but also mental well-being.


Factors Disrupting the “Microbiota-Gut-Brain” Connection


The essence of the “microbiota-gut-brain” connection is a delicate combination, akin to choreography, which can easily be disrupted by various factors. Maintaining this connection requires avoiding toxic agents that can destabilize this unique union.

  1. Heavy Metals: The presence of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium can be a real allegory for discord in the “microbiota-gut-brain.” These toxic elements, entering the body through polluted air, water, or even food sources, can disrupt cellular processes, damage mitochondria, and affect the composition of the microbiota.
  2. Pesticides: Pesticides, such as glyphosate, often pose an invisible threat to the “metropolis” of gut microorganisms. They can destroy beneficial bacteria in the intestines, reducing their quantity and diversity, leading to imbalance and increased intestinal permeability.
  3. Parasites: Parasitic infections create dissonance in the “symphony” of the microbiota. Simple parasites and helminths can cause long-term changes in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, often leading to intestinal inflammation and increased permeability.
  4. Viruses: Viruses, interacting with genes, can be an additional destabilizing factor. Some viruses are associated with intestinal inflammation and can also influence the expression of genes related to diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  5. Low-Fiber, High-Sugar Diet: Unhealthy eating, low in fiber and high in sugar, creates an atmosphere of imbalance in the microbiota. Lack of “food” for beneficial bacteria can lead to dysbiosis and worsen intestinal permeability.
  6. Antibiotics and Medications: Indifference to Microbes: Antibiotics, designed to destroy bacteria, can be a double-edged sword. By interfering with the gut microbiota, they create a favorable environment for the proliferation of harmful microbes and destabilize the balance.
  7. Chemicals and Stress: Modern Afflictions: The impact of environmental chemicals and stress, being factors of modern life, can disrupt the “microbiota-gut-brain” connection. These influences can trigger inflammation, increased intestinal permeability, and disturbance of microbial balance.


Consciously avoiding these toxic factors becomes a fundamental step towards strengthening the “microbiota-gut-brain” connection and maintaining optimal health.

Understanding the influence of gut microbiota on health, especially in the context of the “microbiota-gut-brain” axis, opens new perspectives for overall well-being. Taking care of the gut through a balanced diet, avoiding toxic exposures, and regular cleansing can be key elements in self-care and preventing various diseases.

Conscious interaction with the “metropolis” within us reflects on our overall physical and mental health. Therefore, proper gut care becomes the key to sustainable well-being and a high-quality life.

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