The average human contains a staggering 39 trillion bacteria! This may sound gross, but our bacteria serve many important functions, and even influence our brain health.
The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) consists of more than 500 million nerve cells called neurons. It controls several important functions and connects to the brain and spinal cord through a conduit called the vagus nerve. This nerve serves as a bridge between the gut and brain.
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain by keeping bloodstream infections out, except in cases of severe trauma.
Serotonin and other neurotransmitters affect the brain directly. Additionally, microbes can affect the brain by triggering responses from the immune system.
Bacteria that live in our gut (gut microbiota) can actually affect brain health and function. This important connection is called the gut-brain axis. Current research suggests the gut microbiota influences mental illness.
Research on the microbiome-brain connection made some striking revelations about how your microbial balance can affect the levels of specific chemical messengers in your body and brain.
Serotonin, for example, is a critical messenger in your brain. It is recognized for its influences on mood changes. Drugs prescribed for depression and anxiety affect serotonin signaling in the brain.
Since the connection between the gut microbiome and brain chemistry is evident, the microbiome is looked upon as an important factor affecting brain health.