Today is World Thinking Day – a good day to talk about our brain, how it links to our gut and how both parts of the body affect the way we think. #worldthinkingday
The gut is the biggest digestive, immune and hormonal organ in the human body and it contains its own nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system, which is thought to work both in tandem with and independently of the central nervous system in the brain. It is referred to as the ‘gut-brain’ as it can work without instructions from the brain.
The gut-brain axis
The gut-brain axis is the name given to the ways in which the gut and the brain work together. Since it was identified, research into the gut-brain axis has increased rapidly and our understanding has improved dramatically, although it is still developing.
The gut-brain axis is defined as the two-way communication between the central nervous system (the brain) and the enteric nervous system (the gut). This communication links the emotional and cognitive (thinking) centres in the brain with many of the functions of our gut.
In practice, many of us have experience of this link between our digestive system and our brains through the connection of emotional stress to gastro-intestinal (GI) disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The link is both physical, involving structures within the body, and biochemical, relating to chemical processes and substances that are produced in the body.
The physical link is via the nervous system and in particular the vagus nerve, one of the largest nerves in the body, which links the brain directly to the gut (and the gut directly to the brain).
The biochemical links between the gut and the brain occur via chemical substances known as neurotransmitters which pass messages from one cell to another in the body. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, which is involved in sleep, memory, mood, and appetite, and dopamine, which is involved in motivation and reward.
The role of the gut microbiome
Finally, our gut bacteria are also known to play a key role in this communication through signals sent from the gut microbiota (bacteria) to the brain and from the brain to the gut bacteria via links and communication between nerves (neural), hormones (endocrine), immune cells and bodily fluids (humoral).
In this way, the composition of our gut microbiome has an impact on our brain, which may influence our mood, emotions and thought processes.
So, supporting your gut bacteria may impact your thinking and vice versa – something to remember on #worldthinkingday
Other relevant articles on World Thinking Day
World Thinking Day definition – Wikipedia
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