Illustration of the gut brain connection

The Gut – Brain Connection

Have you ever felt nervous like having butterflies in your stomach? Then you know the brain and gut are connected!

The brain is the master conductor of the body. If it is not functioning well, everything will be out of tune and lack synchronicity with your body. Our moods, the clarity of our thinking, our energy levels, and our happiness can all be out of tune when the brain is out of balance.

Did you know that when someone’s brain is feeling troubled, the first place our Progressive doctors investigate is gut health? A healthy gut is highly connected to brain health!

The gut-brain axis is a term for the communication network that connects your gut and brain. These two organs are connected both physically and biochemically in a number of different ways.

This insight has only made it the forefront of mainstream medicine recently, but Progressive has been studying and treating this connection for over 20 years!

The brain can be damaged from trauma, the American diet, nutritional deficiencies, and even stress. Just like when we are injured in other areas of our body, we know that we must do physical therapy and strength training to fully regain functionality.

The same is true with the brain. If your brain has been under stress or trauma, you must give it the right therapy to get it working right again.


There are many ways the gut and brain “talk” to each other…

1. The Vagus Nerve and the Nervous System

Neurons are cells found in your brain and central nervous system that tell your body how to behave. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Interestingly, your gut contains 500 million neurons, which are connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system.

The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain. It sends signals in both directions and is important in managing stress.

2. Neurotransmitters

Your gut and brain are also connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions.

Interestingly, many of these neurotransmitters are also produced by your gut cells and the microbes living there (healthy and unhealthy bacteria that serve a number of functions). A large proportion of serotonin- your happy chemical- is produced in the gut.

Your healthy gut microbes also produce a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety and helps with sleep regulation!

3. Gut Microbes Make Chemicals that Affect the Brain

The trillions of microbes in your gut also make other chemicals that send signals to and affect your brain. Certain bacteria in our gut make a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor that helps our brain stay young, and build new pathways.

A healthy brain requires the right level of hormones to stay sharp, and the right neurotransmitters to focus.

Your gut microbes produce lots of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. They make SCFA by digesting fiber. SCFA affects brain function in a number of ways, such as reducing appetite.

Gut microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids to produce other chemicals that affect the brain.

4. Gut Microbes Affect Inflammation

Your gut-brain axis is also connected to the immune system. Your immune system primarily resides in your Gut. Your gut and gut microbes play an important role in your immune system and inflammation by controlling what is passed into the body and what is excreted.

When the system isn’t functioning ideally, it causes inflammation, which is associated with a number of brain disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia, schizophrenia, and anxiety.


To diagnose gut issues, there are a number of non-invasive tests that Progressive Medical doctors have created. Our tests are amongst the most advanced gut tests that exist. Once we have diagnosed inflammatory markers, food sensitivities, microbiota, and other markers, we then create a custom plan to get your Gut Health in Check!

There are foods, supplements, & diets we can use to increase the strength of the pathways in our brain. One benefit is that Antioxidants and markers of antioxidant health are associated with less depression, lower anxiety, and better memory! At Progressive, we are national leaders in treating gut health. Call today to learn more or schedule an appointment