Explaining the gut-brain axis - interview with Rachel Larsson

Gut Brain Axis with Rachel Larsson

We dig into the inner workings of our gut with Rachel Larsson, a Melbourne based practicing Naturopath and Nutritionist.

There's recently been a lot of research that links our gut to other aspects of our health and well-being. One of them is the concept of the gut-brain axis. So we ask Rachel to help explain:

What the gut-brain axis is all about, and are there other connections we should be aware of?

Rachel: The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional connection, where our mind speaks to our gut and our gut also speaks to our mind.

How our gut speaks to our brain

Rachel: Research has shown that changes in our gut microbiome affects changes in our behaviour. An example is the connection between the use of antibiotics and depression.

Our gut produces numerous neurochemicals, sending lots of different signals to our brain which act on these signals by regulating our mood and cognition.

An inflamed gut caused by increased levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) will send signals to our brain that something is wrong. LPS, also known as endotoxins, are found in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria, which are generally problematic bacteria.

When there is too much LPS in the gut, our brain picks up on this signal and reacts accordingly.

Hence the connection between an inflamed “leaky gut” being related to a “leaky brain” because our brain picks up on this gut inflammation and reacts causing changes to our cognition, and resulting in conditions such as "brain fog".

How our brain speaks to our gut

Rachel: We have an important nerve, called the vagus nerve that acts like a highway signal between the mind and other organs including the gut. Long term stress or trauma can result in this nerve not functioning well, something we refer to as poor “vagal tone”.

When this occurs it means the brain and gut can’t speak to each other as efficiently and it affects our brain’s ability to give messages to the gut and other organs which are necessary for good function.

So mental health and stress can change our gut microbiome through a poorly functioning vagus nerve which makes it harder for the brain to also regulate gut inflammation.

The gut-brain axis is just one of many bi-directional connections between our gut and other aspects of our health, such as connections also with our hormones, thyroid and immune system.

Next week Rachel shares with us what foods we should eat more of to maintain good gut health.

Rachel specialises in holistic gut health, IBS, SIBO, food allergies and intolerances. We love that she is particularly passionate about helping people heal their gut, calm their minds and fall in love with food again. Find her on Instagram @rachel.larssonFacebook and at www.rachellarsson.com.au

 

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