The gut and brain connection is real. The gut is now even referred to as ‘The second brain‘. It was discovered not that long ago that the gut and brain are connected by one of the largest nerves in the body, the vagus nerve. So we really need our gut to be in good health, for our brains and a lot of other reasons. Let’s talk about it.
Thank you for allowing me to add to the discussion here on whyspirulina.com. I’m happy to contribute. If you are new to spirulina and want to learn more, you may want to check out the FAQ page, as there are a surprising number of conditions where spirulina helps.
The Gut Microbiome
You’ve probably heard of the microbiome. It is the good bacteria that play many roles including digestion and are even part of the immune system. They need to be in balance to do their job and keep the bad bacteria at bay. It’s a delicate balance. An article in Science Direct (Dempsey, Little, & Yue Cui, 2016) says that the human gut microbiome contains more microorganisms than anywhere else in the human body, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.
Environmental Stress and The Gut (Including Noise!)
There are factors that can disturb this balance in the gut and lead to autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal distress and diseases, depression, brain fog, and more. Environmental stressors, toxins, poor diet, drugs, antibiotics, and according to the the Dempsey et.al article, even noise can wreak havoc on the gut. Antibiotics kill bacteria but they also kill the good bacteria in the gut.
The Gut and Brain Connection Explained
The gut actually produces or manipulates some neurotransmitters. And there are 500 million neurons in the gut alone. The gut and brain communicate through the nervous system. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is produced in the gut. It helps calm the nervous system and helps control feelings of anxiety. It’s called the gut-brain axis.
The gut also helps regulate other neurotransmitters that affect the brain: Cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are all manipulated by the gut (Strandwitz, 2018). These are the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters that give you the feeling of satisfaction or well-being.
Depression & Poor Gut Health
Depression can sometimes be caused by poor gut health. Now that we know the neurotransmitters affected by the gut, it makes sense.
Since the gut and brain are connected, one could be causing problems for the other. Conditions not 100% in the brain can cause intestinal problems and if the gut isn’t 100%, it can cause problems in the brain or even depression or other mood disorders.
More on the Gut-Brain Axis
There are three (known) systems that communicate with each other, according to Dempsey et. al. The autonomic nervous system (ANS), the enteric nervous system (ENS), as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA).
The ANS system is responsible for automatic bodily functions. The ENS system is the gut’s nervous system. The HPA system has a lot to do with hormones so it’s easy to see how that alone would cause our mental state to change if the gut isn’t in good health.
Inflammation, A Big Factor
Inflammation is responsible for most diseases. Arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and most other chronic diseases are caused by inflammation in the body. The gut is one of the first points of contact in our immune system so it is really critical that it is working properly and not inflamed.
Oxidative stress is a term that refers to an imbalance of free radicals in the body (molecules with unpaired electrons) and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify them by giving them a spare electron (Mandal, 2019, news-medicalhealth.net). That’s where antioxidants such as spirulina come in.
When the gut has inflammation, it causes lots of problems. Leaky gut is one of those problems and is just what it sounds like. The delicate lining of the gut develops holes with inflammation and imbalances and food and other substances can get right through to the bloodstream. This causes a great deal of inflammation in the body, including the diseases mentioned above. The immune system is so busy fighting these ‘invaders’ that it becomes quite stressed and can even start attacking the body itself, creating autoimmune disorders.
Irritable bowel disease, colitis, Celiac disease, systemic Lupus, stress, and hormonal imbalance when the HPA axis is out of sync. Food allergies, Diverticulitis, Gastroenteritis. All of these wreak havoc on the gut and ultimately, the brain and body.
But even just an unhealthy diet can cause this too.
Taking probiotics helps but in my research, I found some research about spirulina and gut health. We’ll talk about that next.
Spirulina for Inflammation and Leaky Gut
A very recent study was published by Yu T, Wang Y, Chen X, Xiong W, Tang Y, Lin L.(July 2020) after studying gut permeability, inflammation, and taking spirulina. They found that spirulina has high properties as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and boosts the immune system.
They actually did their study on rats, giving them a high-fat diet to induce inflammation and leaky gut gave them spirulina and cataloged the results. They also had a control group who didn’t receive spirulina to see the differences. It’s amazing.
The control group not eating spirulina had colon tissue damage and thinning of the intestinal walls.
Spirulina effectively healed the gut lining and the inflammation was greatly reduced on the spirulina-treated group. Even while they were still eating an unhealthy diet. And, their microbiota actually increased. Spirulina actually helped the good gut microbes flourish and grow. This is impressive.
Where We Are Now
We learned that the gut and brain are connected and that the gut is one of our first lines of defense in the immune system. It can become damaged, causing brain issues and overall health issues. It’s really critical to keep our gut healthy. Spirulina is shown to help heal the gut and even improve it. Click on the links on this page or via this click through to find out where to get known good sources. Thank you for having me today. I hope you learned a lot about gut and brain health and how you can keep it in good working order.*
Frequently Asked Questions – (what Conditions Can this superfood help?)
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions to learn which other conditions, other than gut and brain health, spirulina may help.* If you have any additional questions, please feel free to drop us a line via a comment below and we will be happy to try and advise.
How Much To Take?
This is a common question we are asked as there is no “official advice”. Please check our click through for a suggested approach.
How Long Has Spirulina Been Around?
To learn more, and also so see the very few exceptions where spirulina is best avoided , please check out our history of spirulina page.
Thank You Paula
Dempsey, J., Little, M., Yue Cui, J. (2019) Gut microbiome: An intermediary to neurotoxicity.
Dr. Meghan Dishman, ND. (2016). The 6 Common Causes of Leaky Gut
Strandwitz P. Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain Res. 2018;1693(Pt B):128-133. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2018.03.015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6005194/
Yu T, Wang Y, Chen X, Xiong W, Tang Y, Lin L. Spirulina platensis alleviates chronic inflammation with modulation of gut microbiota and intestinal permeability in rats fed a high-fat diet. J Cell Mol Med. 2020;24(15):8603-8613. doi:10.1111/jcmm.15489 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7412692/
*Nothing on this website should be interpreted as personal medical advice. Always consult a qualified Doctor or health care professional before changing anything related to your healthcare.
*Please see the About page for the references