The Gut-Brain Connection

There exists an often
overlooked and generally unknown connection between your gut and your brain. By
gut, we mean your gastrointestinal system, which consists of everything from
your mouth all the way to your large intestine. For brevity we will call it the


Have you ever had an
anxious moment and felt “butterflies” in your stomach? This is an excellent
example of the connection between your gut and your brain. In fact there is a
direct connection between the two; your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a nerve
directly from your brain to your gut. It tells your gut what the brain wants it
to do. As well, the gut sends an enormous amount of information to the brain
that affects how your nervous system functions. This article will highlight some
of the important ramifications of overlooking this connection.

There are many different
ways the brain and the gut have direct connections: the vagus nerve, hormones,
neurotransmitters, and chemical messengers called cytokines. The vagus nerve
connects the brain in your skull to the brain in your gut; the enteric nervous
system. The enteric nervous system is a vast network of nerves surrounding every
inch of your intestines. If you could take all the nerves of your enteric
nervous system out of your body and roll them up into a ball it would be the
same size as your brain. The communication is a two-way street. If something is
wrong in the brain, something will go wrong in your gut and


Most of us are familiar
with the neurotransmitter serotonin. Many of the drugs used to treat depression
are serotonin type drugs. The traditional healthcare approach to depression is
to give drugs that help increase serotonin levels in your body. What is often
overlooked is the fact that 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut. Thus,
if there is a problem in your gut that decreases serotonin production,
depression can be the final manifestation. Decreased serotonin production can
occur with gut infections, dysbiosis, and leaky gut. If these are the cause of
decreased serotonin wouldn’t it make more sense to rid your body of infection,
repopulate the gut with probiotics, or repair the leaky gut as opposed to adding
drugs? Unfortunately, this is not the norm in health care in the United States
these days.


Gut infections can have a
devastating effect on your brain health. Dysbiosis is a condition when the
normal population of bacteria is thrown off kilter. Your gut is populated with
trillions of good bacteria. When you get a gut infection the ratio of good to
bad bacteria is thrown off. The condition can actually be worsened when powerful
antibiotics are used. Yes, they will kill off the bad bacteria in most
instances, but they also destroy the good bacteria that we need to have proper
digestive health. One recent study showed a connection between autistic children
and problems with normal gut bacteria. They have even isolated a never before
seen bacteria in “normal” guts that is widely prevalent in “autistic”


Another side effect of gut problems is leaky gut. This is a condition when your gut literally has holes punched in it from the inside out. This is due to eating foods that your body has an immune reaction against. Gluten, dairy and soy are common offenders. These foods tear holes in your intestines allowing large, undigested proteins to pass directly into your blood stream. This is the leading cause of Autoimmune Disease in the industrialized world. Autoimmune reactions cause a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier and allow toxic, inflammatory chemicals called cytokines to leak into your brain. This sets of a massive chain reaction where your brain starts creating more inflammation against itself. This is what causes the major neurodegenerative diseases we see nowadays: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, etc.

If you want to make sure
your brain is healthy you need to make sure your gut is healthy. If you are
unsure how to do this, call our office for more information.


Dr. Robert McCarthy

Board Certified Chiropractor 

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