Gut-Brain Connection (Part 2)

Recent research is proving the breakdown between the epithelial cells which contributes to “leaky gut”, also contributes to “leaky brain” – a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier. 

Barrier Dysfunction may be linked to Mental Health. 

Contributing factors include:

  • Poor diet
  • Bacterial dysbiosis (where the bacteria in the gut is out of balance and pathogenic – “bad” – bacteria begin to dominate creating symptoms of digestive disturbance)
  • Increased toxic load from the particles of disrupted bacteria
  • Increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut)
  • Systemic inflammation.


Strain specific probiotics may support repair of the intestinal barrier and protect the gut lining.  This in turn may create a reduction in inflammation and leaky gut.

Chronic stress appears to be a direct instigator of Gut-Brain-Connection/Axis dysfunction.  Research is indicating specific probiotic strains may:

  • Protect against stress-induced GIT alterations
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Strengthen the GIT intestinal barrier
  • Produce substances that help to restore the blood-brain barrier integrity, and
  • Protect against inflammation of the central nervous system.

So again we ask the question GUT or MOOD?  WHO IS CONTROLLING WHO?  The gut produces GABA (a chemical which reduces stress responses e.g. anxiety, depression, insomnia and epilepsy) and 90% of our Serotonin (a chemical which transmits between nerve cells and regulates mood, appetite, memory and sleep) to make us feel happy.  These chemicals help us to make good food choices – high fibre and good quality pre-biotic food – which then makes the gut happy. 

How do probiotics help in this equation?  The research has been done on specific strains which appear to:

  • Support Brain-derived-neurotropic-factors (BDNF) which have an effect of positive emotional reinforcement on the brain
  • To reduce malabsorption of any dietary sugars e.g. lactose, fructose
  • Promote healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients in food
  • Reduce unhealthy bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine
  • Eliminate toxic burden from bacterial fragments
  • Inhibit growth of GIT pathogens/opportunistic infections, and in addition
  • Have an analgesic effect which reduces sensations of pain in the intestinal tract.

Migraines:  A complex interplay between GIT and Nervous System?

There is a question in regards to migraine sufferers.  Another two way association may be between migraine sufferers who have a greater incidence of GIT disorders versus healthy controls.  Those with GIT disorders have a greater incidence of migraines compared to healthy control groups.  Associations may be linked via increased intestinal permeability.  It is being suggested that specific strain probiotics may decrease intestinal permeability as well as inflammation, and therefore may reduce the frequency and/or intensity of migraine attacks. 


There may be another link between Autism Spectrum Disorders and GIT Dysfunction.   The full aetiology of ASD/s are multifactorial and still largely not yet understood.  However, GIT symptoms are common in ASD persons: GIT pain, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, and an unpleasant strong odour to stools.  Those with GIT issues often present with greater severity of social withdrawal, irritability, and anxiety.  Research suggests the possibility of microbiome disturbances in those with ASD.  GIT symptoms in ASD mimic IBS – for which probiotics have a strong evidence of benefit.  Research indicates “It is warranted to prescribe a multi-strain probiotic (in ASD patients) that includes strains with demonstrated ability to alter the gut microbiome…. and support barrier function”.

Effective treatment goals would be to restore balance to the healthy microbiome; reduce the toxic load from bacterial fragments; restore the health and integrity of the barrier for both the gut and the brain; reduce inflammation of the central nervous system.  To achieve this improved state, it may be necessary to use specific strain probiotics in conjunction with a gut repair powder to repair GIT damage and restore barrier integrity; essential fatty acids may help to resolve inflammation and support brain health; a nutritional learning and memory powder to support the chemical messengers which transmit messages between nerves, to reduce inflammation of the central nervous system and improve mood.  In addition herbal support may also beneficial to support all of these pathways.    


In addition to using strategies to support repair of the intestinal membrane and improve the Gut-Brain-Axis, some herbal and nutritional formulations which may assist in managing healthy moods and mental well-being may include:

Learning and Memory Powder which may provide substrates for healthy neurotransmitter production; to reduce neuroinflammation; support cognition and memory; and support healthy mood.

Herbal Mood Support may be useful to support healthy neurotransmitter production and support healthy moods.

Consideration may be given to herbal remedies and nutrients to support reduction in anxiety; reduction in stress response; other nutrients to reduce inflammation; support for healthy cellular energy; and consideration to detoxification pathways.

There are a number of herbal remedies and nutrients which may safely be used with prescribed medications. 

Good Diet reduces Depression Risk

The Journal of Affective Disorders indicates that reduced risk of depression was associated with:

  • High quality diet (Mediterranean, healthy/prudent). A Prudent Diet is low in saturated fat and high in fibre.  The Western-Style Diet is high in fat and low in fibre.  
  • Lower dietary inflammatory index
  • Increased intake of fish and vegetables

Conversely, poor diet was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms.


Watch this space………research is only just learning about the links between GIT and neurological function. 

Disclaimer:  The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided.  Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication.  Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues.  All rights reserved.