Stress, gut brain axis and modulating stress responses via gut microbiome and vagus nerve

May 27, 2021

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to anything that make it feel threatened or under pressure -  which could be physical, emotional and psychological. Stress is not all bad as it can push us to being our best and help us to achieve things.

However, stress is an important element of many health conditions and can impact both physical and mental health. Stressors can be physical, occupational, mental and emotional.  Mental health issues and chronic stress suppress our immune system and increase susceptibility to infection. Whilst acute stress enhances the immune system (minutes to hours), chronic stress suppresses our immune systems (several hours a day for weeks or months). Sadly, in modern life, many of us are under considerable chronic stress all the time.

Gut brain axis

We are now starting to understand the importance of the gut brain axis in regulating our stress responses, particularly via the vagus nerve and through our gut microbiome.   

The gut and brain are connected in several ways:

  • Through the vagus nerve – connects the base of the brainstem to the gut
  • Via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters
  • Through the gut microbiome via metabolites such as SCFA
  • Through the immune system

 

 

One of the most important ways that we can modulate the gut brain axis is via diet which can change the types and amounts of bacteria present in the gut microbiome. Conversely, if we are feeling stressed, negative feedback of the vagus nerve can impact our digestion, gut microbiome and brain.

 

Vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is one of the main constituent of the parasympathetic nervous system, which manages essential functions in our bodies including our mood, digestion, immune response, and heart rate[1]. As shared before, the vagus nerve connects the brain and gastrointestinal tract and can share information and feedback of many organs to the brain.

 

Practising stress reducing activities not only positively impacts stress levels and mental health, but can also support our gut health and digestion. Using the Sensate device can activate our parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve through its gentle vibrations. This creates a positive feedback loop which lets our brain know that we are safe and our organs can work normally, rather than being in a flight or fight situation.

Visit  Sensate and use code TORAL for £20 off: https://www.getsensate.com/toral 

[1] Breit et al  (2018)  Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders  - Frontiers in Psychiatry   Vol 9

 





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