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December 28, 2021 4 min read

All About the Gut-Brain Axis

We’ve all experienced a “gut feeling” at one time or another in our lives, and made a decision, usually the right one, based entirely upon it. As it turns out, that “feeling” we experience is actually very real and not imagined. It’s your gut-brain axis signaling you that something is up, and that you better take care of it.

WHAT IS THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS?

The gut-brain axis is the connection between your central nervous system (CNS) and your enteric nervous system (ENS). It is a two way, i.e., bi-directional, pathway. The circuitry connects pathways directly or indirectly between cognitive and emotional areas in the brain with peripheral gastrointestinal functions of the digestive system and vice-versa.

We are all familiar with the CNS, but the ENS is more of a mystery that medicine has only recently begun to grasp the importance of. The ENS consists of 100 million nerve cells lining two thin layers that run the length of your gastrointestinal tract from top to bottom - the esophagus to rectum. It’s been dubbed your "little brain", not because it is capable of thinking, but in taking a responsive action by communicating with the larger brain. The biggest nerve connecting your gut and brain is the vagus nerve, which transmits bidirectional signals capable of stimulating a “gut feeling” in anyone.

The link between your gut and brain has become a popular topic in medical journals and health magazines for a good reason. What happens and why when your CNS and ENS connect has been the source of a growing body of research. Every indication is that gut health can influence your brain, i.e., that it can affect your behavior, the way you think, and even your mood. In light of the gut-brain axis, that old saying, “You are what you eat,” takes on a whole new meaning, with added significance on the importance of a healthy diet.

HOW DIET AFFECTS THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS

Many foods, especially in North America, are ultra-processed and loaded with chemical additives to increase efficiency and lower production costs of the manufacturer. Ultra-processed foods contain extracts from foods - the sugar and starch, hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup - or food coloring and flavor enhancers - all to simulate the experience of real whole food.

Ultra-processed foods are manufactured, not grown, and highly foreign to the digestive system. The additives and artificial ingredients in them are intended to make them taste good, at a cheap price to the consumer and an even cheaper production cost for the manufacturer. That comes at the cost of nutrition and overall gut health. The consequence has been that gut and digestive health has been impacted.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN FOOD AND MOOD

The gut-brain axis offers a greater understanding of not just the interaction of diet and health, but its connection to mood. Consider that 90% of all serotonin receptors are located in the gut and the connection between brain and gut, our immune system (70% of which is directly tied to our digestive system), and mood becomes even more pronounced. It’s no wonder that the most common side effects off prescriptions, recreational drugs, and alcohol, all of which are designed to modify or suppress our moods, tend to show themselves in terms of gastrointestinal impacts. Moods and our gut are a two way street.

What does this mean? For years the consensus thought by doctors and researchers was that people that have been able to maintain their gut health are much more likely to be mentally content and satisfied with their lives. Increasing research on the gut-brain axis supports this link. People with strong digestive systems and a history of digestive health are more likely to be happy, sleep better, have higher serotonin levels, and less likely to develop mood disorders or anxiety.

Considered from another perspective: on the gut-brain axis, consuming whole foods that are high in nutritional value, low in saturated fats and sugar helps support your gut health and that is likely to drive maximum mental performance.

WHY THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS IS IMPORTANT

The gut-brain axis is connected through millions of nerves. More than just digesting food, the gut and its microbes also signal reactions that can affect brain health. All of this suggests that by improving your diet, by consuming non-processed whole foods, it can alter the types of bacteria in your gut. Eating a balanced diet and taking care of your overall digestive wellness can offer a boost for and support mental health and mood. By supporting your gut health, the result may be that you have also fortified your brain health, and support your mood and happiness in doing so.

HOW ALOE VERA CAN AFFECT MOOD

Introducing Aloe Vera into your diet is a great way to support your digestive health. The role of Aloe Vera in benefiting the gut-brain axis relates to the ways in which Aloe Vera supports gut health. The health benefits of this succulent plant have been known for thousands of years. We are all familiar with its topical application in lotions and cosmetics for soothing, nourishing, and moisturizing skin. But Aloe Vera is a nutrient-dense superfood that nourishes the digestive system and promotes a healthy gut.

 

DIGESTIVE BENEFITS

Aloe Vera gel is loaded with at least 75 different nutrients. These constituent parts consist of vitamins, minerals and compounds that are beneficial to the digestive system and help boost nutrient absorption. The sheer volume of minerals and vitamins - calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, zinc, and vitamin B and B12, and antioxidant vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E - are all important to our body functions. Of the eight important enzymes in Aloe Vera two, amylase and lipase, specifically aid the digestive system by breaking down carbohydrates and sugars in food, and help to digest fat.

Whatever route you choose, it seems wise to consider the gut-brain axis and start considering ways to support your gut health.

 


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