Does your gut act as a barometer for how you feel, mentally or physically? … Here we discuss the ramifications of gut health on brain function.


The Brain Gut Connection


Why look at the gut as a cause of brain function compromise?

The link between the brain and the gut has been discussed for decades.  People often report onset of anxiety, depression, or other mental state changes around the same time that they experienced digestive system problems.  Here we discuss poor mental health in the context of gut bacteria imbalance.

Intestinal Bacteria Imbalance: The Brain Gut Connection

Evidence now points to microbes in our digestive tract that impose a direct effect on the brain.  The gut for example produces neuro-active compounds (neurotransmitters, brain metabolites) that influence brain function.   The brain also acts on the make-up of intestinal microbes.

The brain gut connection is thought to be mediated by the vagus nerve which directly connects the digestive tract and the brain.

Gut microbes produce metabolites that act on the immune system which directly communicate with brain cells.  Gut microbes have a role in preventing leaky gut but if they are disrupted (by antibiotics, drugs, digestive disorders, impaction, auto-immune compromise, food intolerances, or heavy metals), unwanted metabolites can leak into the bloodstream, pass through the blood-brain barrier, and reach the brain.

Gut Microbes & Mood Disorders: The Brain Gut Connection

Take anxiety as a classic example of a mood disorder.  Researchers are finding anti-anxiety effects of prebiotics which provide nourishment for a global array of good gut bacteria.  Schmidt et al, in a recent placebo controlled trial, reported a reduction in morning saliva cortisol levels in a group of healthy volunteers taking prebiotics for three weeks.  Cortisol if high creates a stress hormone dominance scenario that is associated with both depression and anxiety.  When the prebiotic group was exposed to negative stimuli (negatively charged words) they responded with less anxiety than the placebo group; they were also able to filter out and pay less attention to negative stimuli and more to positive stimuli.

The Brain Gut Connection: A BodyMindLink Perspective

From a general health perspective, imbalanced gut bacteria (gut dysbiosis) is associated with poor immune function, infections, skin diseases, fatigue, mal-nourishment and other syndromes.

From a mental health perspective, brain-gut compromise is associated with a global array of mental health symptoms/conditions ranging from brain fog to academic performance to mood (depression, anxiety) and behavior disorders (autism, ADD, OCD, PTSD) to schizophrenia (psychosis) to age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Good Dietary Habits to Avoid Brain-Gut Compromise

Try to avoid foods that you do not tolerate.  You may need to do a strict food elimination trial of gluten and or dairy which are the top culprits in society today.   Other intolerant food or environmental sources may influence brain function immensely and there are blood tests to assess this.  Say no to junk food.  A high-protein gluten-free approach is often also the best approach for a large part of our population.

Eat fiber containing foods and drink water to maximize the transit of waste.

If you are doing antibiotics, be sure to do a good probiotic.  If you have had several courses of antibiotics in your lifetime you likely need to re-populate with a pre- and pro-biotic protocol.


MindCheck provides in-depth information on Orthomolecular and Naturopathic approaches to achieving mental and general health.  This series by Dr. Ray Pataracchia ND is endorsed by the Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.

The Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic offers a model targeted orthomolecular lab approach with protocols honed by the experience of nutritional archives and lab profiles that elucidate the top syndromes affecting your mental and physical health.

Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment.  We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.