Functional Nutrition and the Gut-Brain Axis

Updated: Jul 26

In one way or another, the human gut is intimately linked with every organ system of the body. Ongoing research continues to reveal fascinating data as it pertains to the gut microbiome and its bidirectional communications with these bodily systems. This article will target some of the recent research surrounding the gut-brain axis and how it relates to certain diseases. If you are unfamiliar with the basic concepts of the gut microbiome, you can take a few minutes and read this article first.


Communication between the gut-brain axis (GBA) is bidirectional, gut sends signals to brain and brain sends signals to gut. Some of the factors contributing to GBA communication include:

  1. Bacterial metabolites--short chain fatty acids (SCFA's), amino acid metabolites, secondary bile acids, among others [1-2]

  2. The central, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems [3-4]

  3. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis [4]

  4. Variations in the permeability of the intestinal wall and the blood-brain barrier [2]

The evidence is pretty overwhelming that when GBA communications become dysregulated, brain functioning becomes altered, leading to a neurological condition in many people. Some of the conditions associated with a dysregulated gut-brain axis include:

  1. Neurodegenerative conditions: Parkinson's, ALS, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia [5-8]

  2. Autoimmune-neurodegenerative conditions: Multiple sclerosis [8-9]

  3. Autoimmune conditions of the gut: Celiac disease, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease [10]

  4. Functional gastrointestinal disorders: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), IBS-like conditions, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), Functional dysphagia, Functional dyspepsia, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), etc. [11-12]

  5. The Autism Spectrum and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) [8, 13]

  6. The Psychiatric Spectrum, from depression and anxiety to bipolar and schizophrenia [8, 14-15]

The gut microbiome is thought to be one of the central factors regarding these gastro-neurological disorders and a condition known as intestinal dysbiosis, meaning an imbalance of the microbial species within the gut, plays a major role in the communication breakdown of the GBA. [16-17] You can read this article (coming soon) to learn about some of the factors that contribute to dysbiosis and compromised gut health.


So what role does functional medicine and nutrition play in all of this? Functional medicine practitioners are trained to recognize the critical connection between gut health and many, if not all, of the chronic diseases that have increased exponentially, especially in the last 50~100 years. Common diets that functional practitioners may recommend for their clients include Mediterranean-style diets, Paleo-style diets, ketogenic diets, low FODMAP diets, elimination diets involving removal of offending foods such as the 5R approach, diets involving different patterns of intermittent fasting, among others. [9, 18-22] Functional practitioners understand the uniqueness of each individual client, therefore, any combination of the above mentioned diets may be used together as well.

When it comes to supplementation, there are a boat load of nutrients that help to support the right diet when it comes to dysbiosis and general gut repair. Some of these include digestive enzymes, fiber, probiotics, L-glutamine, zinc carnosine, omega-3 fatty acids, berberine, DGL, ginger, quercetin, and more. [23-32] You will also get additional lifestyle tips from your functional practitioner that will revolve around maintaining general good health and lowering your risk of disease, such as stress management and quality sleep hygiene. If you are struggling to achieve optimal health with your conventional doctor, then consider giving your local functional practitioner a call today!


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996516/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6999848/

  3. https://pmj.bmj.com/content/94/1114/446.long

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/

  5. https://www.jns-journal.com/article/S0022-510X(22)00025-9/fulltext

  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29925252/

  7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joim.13336

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7722401/

  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6460288/

  10. https://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2021/11/01/gutjnl-2021-325985.long

  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371005/

  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32754068/

  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33271210/

  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272735820301318?via%3Dihub

  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8471971/

  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315779/

  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290017/

  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385025/

  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/

  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359750/

  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313618/

  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796564/

  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4923703/

  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29590046/

  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997396/

  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834172/

  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24286534/

  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7781624/

  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34961418/

  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3123991/

  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30935515/

  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8621968/

  33. Image 1: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gut-Brain_Axis.png

  34. Image 2: Courtesy of Unsplash


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Disclaimer: The information within this blog is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be interpreted as medical advice, or to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. The articles within this blog are simply a sharing of knowledge and information based on research and / or experience. If you feel the need to see a doctor for your condition, then you should definitely follow your instincts and do just that. Please do not alter your dose of any prescribed medications without the direct supervision of your healthcare practitioner. The information contained herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare practitioner. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

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