Brainstorm Bites Episode 1 - Gut Health

In Brainstorm Bites Episode #1 we discuss the link between food digestion and a healthy brain. We introduce you to the ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM, sometimes referred to as the second brain and the NEUROPOD cell which is a vital relay cell that communicates directly to the brain. For good brain health, the diet and gut function should be healthy. 

Show Notes

Hi, I am Darren Gray, Chiropractor and neurological rehabilitation therapist from Brainstorm Rehab. I switch brains on.

We all have been drummed into us that a diet of good food is excellent for us. But why? Yes, well the next short, while I will chat to you on Brainstorm, Bites our podcast on brain health, good food leads to a healthy growing brain.

Before we jump into the depths of neuroscience and gut health, we need to understand normal human anatomy and physiology. The journey of food and digestion starts in the mouth. Through chewing and primary enzyme reaction, your dinner starts the breaking down through mechanical and chemical methods. After exiting the initial digestive path from the mouth, the bolus travels into a very acid chamber called the stomach. 

So far along the journey, the food has been broken down and exposed. The next staged, within the small and large intestines, or called the bowels or gut, nutrients are extracted. Healthy bowel environment permits the exchange of nutrients across the cellular walls. In a simplistic model, nutrients are passed into the gut circulatory system, the contrary waste remains within the bowel for elimination and voiding. Pretty simple!

The control on the gut is mostly autonomous. That is it is on autopilot. However, the nervous system network within the digestive system is widespread. The number of nerves, supporting cells and nerve chemical messengers housed within the gut total in volume more than the brain. Some anatomist, therefore, refers to the system ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM as the second brain. Imagine the enteric nervous like a cobweb spiraling in and around the gut.   

Lining the wall of the gut are many specialized cells. Much like a sporting team, the gut cells have a specific role or roles. Some examples of the dedicated functions of the gut cells include; acting as a semi-permeable barrier, store and release chemicals, and some perform as a communicating relay. The NEUROPOD cell is a vital relay cell that communicates directly to the brain. A neuropod cell is a receptor cell for the Vagus CRANIAL NERVE. Important information about the environment changes within the bowel is signaled to the brain. Therefore, a link from the GUT via the enteric nervous system and VAGUS nerve to the BRAIN determined.

However, the gut is susceptible to inflammation. What is inflammation? When you bang your toe on the edge of a bed, you can notice a few things. The toe may hurt, turns red in colour, and the size increases with swelling. Interestingly, your gut can get inflamed as well. The effects of an inflamed gut similarly, could be a pain, bloating, and change is a cellular balance. In fact, the inflammatory environment can cause a cell to open the tight cell walls. Similar to a dam wall with leaky holes, the tight junctions within the gut can become porous indiscriminately permitting the exchange of nutrient and toxins. Therefore, a neuropod is exposed to unhealthy elements will lead to poor brain function.
Gut inflammation is the most common mechanism to disturb gut brain balance. What are some of the common causes for contributing to inflammation? Top of the list is unrefined foods. This is a broad group incorporating processed foods, sugars and allergenic foods. Improper eating habits, such as eating on the run, skipping meals and not thoroughly chewing, are disturbing for healthy digestion. Finally, some other concurrent medical health disorders may lead to a gut more sensitive or unbalanced. 

An excellent healthy diet has been drummed into us from an early age. We understand now that the gut communicates directly to the brain via the neuropod cells. The most common disturbance to the gut environment is from inflammation. Signals through the enteric nervous system, the second brain, upset the brain balance and disturb nervous system function. For good brain health, the diet and gut function should be healthy.

At bsr we are dedicated to switching brains on. For references and recourses jump onto the web at or join the conversation on Facebook. Thanks for joining us today on our brainstorm bites podcast on GUT HEALTH. 

More Reading
Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: Interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology.

Galland, L. (2014). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Journal of Medicinal Food.
Mayer, E. A., Knight, R., Mazmanian, S. K., Cryan, J. F., & Tillisch, K. (2014). Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. Journal of Neuroscience.
Mayer, Emeran A., Tillisch, K., & Gupta, A. (2015). Gut/brain axis and the microbiota. Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Sharon, G., Sampson, T. R., Geschwind, D. H., & Mazmanian, S. K. (2016). The Central Nervous System and the Gut Microbiome. Cell.

Brainstorm Bites Episode 1 - Gut Health