The first article, we discussed how stress could cause the development of gastrointestinal symptoms like discomfort, bloating, pain, and even nausea. Understanding the basics of how the gut and the brain are connected, and how these structures may also affect the rest of the body, is important. Now, we are taking things a step further.
First, we need to consider the fact that there is actually a network that connects the brain and the gut – and this is how the two are able to communicate with each other. A study that was published in the Annals of Gastroenterology explains that the gut-brain axis exists through the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system, as well as the enteric microbiota.
Looking closer at the connection, we should pay attention to the fact that neurons would be what allows for the communication. These cells are active in the brain, as well as the central nervous system. According to one publication, however, almost half a billion neuron cells may be found in the gastrointestinal tract as well. There is also a nerve that actually makes a direct connection between the gut and the brain – this would be the vagus nerve. The nerve allows the brain to communicate with the gut, and the gut to communicate with the brain.
Several studies have shown how this communication can cause symptoms in one structure to affect the other. A scientific publication explains that stress causes a problem with certain cells that are sent through this particular nerve (the vagus nerve) – in turn, this can lead to the development of problems with the gastrointestinal tract.
Apart from the vagus nerve, it is also important to note here that neurotransmitters may also play a role in allowing the gut and the brain to communicate. For example, there is quite a significant amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter primarily found in the brain, being developed within the gut. GABA, also known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter produced by microbes in the gut – the production of this neurotransmitter has been found to affect anxiety symptoms, as well as feelings related to fear.