= Gabi Kaplan, Laura Diamond, Jenni Diamond, OT Reg. (Ont.), & Evan Cole Lewis, MD =
What is the Gut-Brain Axis?
Have you ever wondered why we use the expressions “gut-feeling” or “butterflies in your stomach?” These phrases stem from the connection between our gut health and brain function. This connection is called the Gut-Brain Axis, which is a bi-directional communication network that links the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) with the enteric nervous system (the digestive system) (1). Your brain and digestive system send messages to each other and can affect one another’s health and functioning.
Disturbances to the gut-brain axis may be associated with many neurological conditions, some of which include anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (1).
What happens to our gut when there is trauma to our brain?
People who have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may undergo a disruption to the gut-brain axis and gastrointestinal (GI) changes. TBI can induce both structural and functional changes to the gut including (2):
- Functional: motility abnormalities / decreased intestinal contractility (2)
- Structural: damage to the tissue lining the GI tract (2).
People who have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may undergo a disruption to the gut-brain axis and gastrointestinal (GI) changes.
Can targeting our gut assist in brain injury recovery?
Current research is exploring the possibility that interventions targeting our gut may assist in brain injury recovery and improve cognitive function. Some interventions that are currently being assessed include (1):
- Pre- and probiotics
- Nutritional interventions
- Dietary vitamins and supplements
- Fecal microbiota transplant
- Enteral antibiotics
As more research is done, gut-brain axis interventions may indeed pose as a therapy option for brain injury recovery.
As more research is done, gut-brain axis interventions may indeed pose as a therapy option for brain injury recovery. And the next time that you have butterflies in your stomach, take care of your gut and you will be taking care of your brain!
- Zhu, C. S., Grandhi, R., Patterson, T. T., & Nicholson, S. E. (2018). A Review of Traumatic Brain Injury and the Gut Microbiome : Insights into Novel Mechanisms of Secondary Brain Injury and Promising Targets for Neuroprotection, 8(6).
- Sundman, M. H., Chen, N., Subbian, V., & Chou, Y. (2017). Brain , Behavior , and Immunity The bidirectional gut-brain-microbiota axis as a potential nexus between traumatic brain injury , inflammation , and disease. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 66, 31–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2017.05.009