A couple of years ago, I started having a series of gut infections one after another. I developed three infections in the span of four months and every time I was prescribed antibiotics, coupled with probiotic supplements by my Allopathic Doctor. The symptoms would recede for a while, only to bite back again within a couple of weeks. Also, day by day I was getting weak, losing my energy & vitality, and depressive symptoms were starting to take a hold on my life. Perplexed by my body’s inability to heal, I was unable to lead a normal life. Until, one fine day, I got in touch with Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor, a renowned Ayurvedic Expert who is also the Chief Ayurveda Consultant at OmniLife. He examined my tongue and checked my pulse and told me that due to the frequent use of Antibiotics, my gut didn’t have any good bacteria left . He also determined that the main cause of my gut issues was the stress I had undergone.
This was when I began to unearth the complexity of the connection between our gut and brain. Below, I share knowledge on how this relationship functions in detail.
Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor & Ayurveda
Nutrition is called ‘the great medicine’ in Ayurveda. It won’t be incorrect if we say that Ayurveda is all about gut health. Digestion and gut play the most significant role when in come to boosting our immunity. In his own words, Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor very often quotes that in order to improve our gut health, we have to ensure that we have a healthy gut microbiome.
Understanding the Gut
The gut refers to the place in our body where food is digested, metabolised, and absorbed, to subsequently be delivered to our cells and provide the body with the required energy for normal functioning. The gut has only recently caught the attention of nutrition research. One of the main areas of exploration through this research is on the types of microorganisms that are present in the gut. These massively affect our overall health and wellbeing. The Gut has health has been the center of most Ayurvedic Treatment is what I learnt with my Independent research and Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor. The gut microbiome refers to the billions of live bacteria, humans have in the gut, but it also includes things like fungi and viruses. It’s estimated that the gut contains approximately 35,000 different strains of bacteria. The majority are found in the large intestine, particularly the colon, but bacteria can also be found in the oesophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
The proper functioning of the gut is essential to the removal of waste in the body – this process of breaking down food creates bioactive compounds that can either help support health, or lead to inflammation and further, cause diseases.
The gut microbiome is influenced by a wealth of factors such as the mode of delivery of a baby, diet during infancy and adulthood, use of antibiotics, age, genetics and mental health.
The Gut-Brain axis
During my sessions with Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor, I learnt that our gut’s health has implications beyond simply digestion, it may also regulate our mood and immune response. This is why the gut is also referred to as ‘the second brain’ or the Enteric Nervous System (ENS).
The two way communication system between the gut and the brain is called the gut-brain axis. They are connected through millions of nerves, especially with the vagus nerve which sends signals from the digestive system to the brain and vice versa. In a study conducted, it was found that people with IBS (Irritable Bowel syndrome) have reduced vagal tone (activity of the vagus nerve). Therefore, the vagus nerve has an important role in the gut-brain axis and stress. This also means that your gut discomfort may be a result of your anxiety, stress or simply put, your current mental health. This is especially true in cases of IBS and dysfunctional bowel problems such as pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea, where there is no obvious physical cause but the person still experiences a lot of these symptoms. Stress can make the existing symptoms even worse.
Gut and Mental Health
It is interesting to note that researchers who are studying mental health issues like Alzheimer, Anxiety, Parkinson, Autism etc., are taking into consideration the patient’s gut functionality. Similarly, researchers focusing on gut issues, are investigating the functioning of the brain in such people. This clearly outlines the direct connection between these areas, meaning that altering the bacteria in your gut may positively influence your brain’s health.
Serotonin – feelings of well-being
The gut and the brain are also connected through neurotransmitters, (which are chemical messengers and their job is to transmit signals from nerve cells to target cells) responsible for the production of a large portion of Serotonin, in the gut. Serotonin helps in eating, digesting and sleeping. When the Serotonin levels are normal, you feel happier, calmer and emotionally stable. In a study, it was found that people with depression tend to have low levels of serotonin.
There is another way the gut and the brain are connected which is through our Immune system. If the immune system is switched on for too long, it can lead to inflammation which leads to a number of brain diseases.
It is vital that we pay attention to this connection, and take steps to ensure optimal functioning. There is a huge possibility that our digestive issues and / or poor mental health are a result of a broken connection between the gut and the brain. It is crucial to maintain the health of the microbiome by maintaining a strong balance of good bacteria in the gut. Keep an eye on your symptoms and discuss the most effective course of action with your doctor if problems do arise, in relation to gut health and even mental health. After many unsuccessful trips to GP, I found my connection back with Ayurveda & Dr. Sudhindra Uppoor.
- The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition
- The Gut-Brain connections
- Role of stress in functional gastrointestinal disorders. Evidence for stress-induced alterations in gastrointestinal motility and sensitivity
- ‘Second brain’ neurons keep colon moving
- Vagus nerve overview
- The Brain-Gut connection
- Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria