The curious relationship between our brain and gut

A complex neural network connecting the gut and brain, symbolizing the gut-brain axis. Neural pathways travel between the intestines and the brain, highlighting the bidirectional communication

Phrases such as “having a gut feeling” or “feeling sick to the stomach” have become synonymous in our everyday conversations. However, there may be a lot more to it than meets the eye, because the gut actually works in tandem with the brain to stabilise our emotional lives.

If we look at our anatomy, the brain is all the way at the top, isolated and distant from the rest of its organ compatriots! This is where the gut comes in. A complex organ with an area 40 times the size of our skin and is home to 100 trillion bacteria. Much like a king needing a hand, the gut is the most important advisor to the brain by collecting information on the quality of nutrients, hormones in the bloodstream and immune cell health. The information exchange from the gut to the brain is 90% whereas it is only 10% in the opposite direction. There’s not a lot that the brain knows which the gut already doesn’t!

Our lives have become increasingly fast paced, where stress is almost a given. Now, let’s take a closer look at what actually happens. During periods of stress, the brain (our problem solver) borrows energy from the gut by retarding the flow of mucus and blood needed for digestion. As the stressed brain keeps draining energy from the gut, the gut walls weaken, which has an adverse effect on the immune cells within the walls. This leaves us more susceptible to disease. Our entire well being is reliant on a healthy gut.

So how do we give our guts the proper tender love and care it needs? Incorporating foods rich in fibre in our diets and meditation for alleviating stress is a start and it saves the brain from stealing off the gut for its own selfish needs! And as we begin to prioritise our gut health, we’ll be able to reap the benefits; emotional stability, increased performance at work and just an overall feeling of good mood and well being. Much like the picture above, where nature aligns in perfect harmony, this alignment is always accessible to us; and it starts by prioritising our gut health!


Written by Harin Vinumon