The Gut-Brain Connection: Protecting Your "Second Brain"

Short Read

  • Brain health and gut health are closely related
  • Your gut has it's own separate nervous system, often called the "second brain"
  • The health of the second brain tells us a lot about the health of the brain in your head
  • What's good for the brain in your gut is usually good for the brain in your head
  • There are easy nutritional approaches to healing your gut and improving your brain health

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The Gut-Brain Connection

Did you know that the health of your brain is closely related to the health of your gut?  In fact - the health status of your gut may actually provide doctors clues about issues occurring in your brain.

Scientists and doctors are increasingly looking at the ENS to learn more about brain health and neurodegenerative processes.  What they are finding is that there is an extremely complex relationship between your intestinal bacteria, inflammation, your immune system, your brain, and the enteric nervous system (more on this below!).1,3 

The “Second Brain”

Your body has a unique and specialized nervous system located in your digestive tract that is capable of functioning independently from the brain in your head.1  You may have at some point had a “gut feeling” about something, or felt “butterflies in your stomach” and some of this is due in part to the vast network of neurons and high concentrations of neurotransmitters like serotonin that are found throughout your gastrointestinal tract. 

Your gastrointestinal tract contains somewhere between 200 – 600 million neurons, grouped in thousands of bundles referred to as plexuses.2  Scientists refer to this “second brain” as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS and your brain communicate back and forth with each other, however the ENS is capable of functioning completely independently from the brain in your head.2

What's good for your gut is good for your brain.

We now know that the health of the ENS is closely tied to the health of your brain and spine – called the central nervous system (CNS). Put another way, if your “second brain” is unhealthy, your actual brain is likely under distress as well.  In fact, scientists have discovered that amyloid plaques similar to those found in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease also appear in the ENS and may serve as an important early warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease4

Taking actions that improve the intestinal microbiome and restore the health of the ENS also appear to have beneficial and protective effects in the CNS. 

Your Body's Security Systems

The intestines are closely tied into brain health because they perform and important security function, much like the blood-brain barrier (BBB) protects your brain from harmful compounds in your blood. The intestines are vital for regulating which components from the foods and drinks you consume are absorbed into the blood stream and possibly into your brain much like a filter.  When the intestines are inflamed or damaged, it creates a break in this security system allowing for the absorption of potentially toxic compounds and even microorganisms like bacteria and viruses to bypass the security filter and enter directly into the blood stream and ENS. Once these compounds have entered your blood stream and ENS, they are one step closer to impacting the health of other organs including your brain. 

Taking Care of the Second Brain

There are a couple of very easy steps you can take to help restore and maintain the health of your gut and second brain.  As you might guess, the health of your intestines is largely dependent on dietary factors, so many of the steps towards better gut health involve dietary modification.

  1. Feed Your Intestinal Microbiome:

    The first line of defense for your intestines is provided by the intestinal bacteria that are collectively called the intestinal microbiome.  Increasing your daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber can help promote a healthy intestinal microbiome. Studies have shown that altering your diet can shift your intestinal microbiome in as little as 24 hours.6  This is great news because it means that you can quickly experience the benefits from incorporating these simple dietary changes.

    Supplementing your diet with Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber is another easy way to boost your daily fiber intake and support the healthy intestinal bacteria that are known to promote brain health.5

  2. Restore the mucosal barrier:

    Imbalance of the intestinal microbiome contributes to significant inflammation and cause breaks in the barrier created by the mucosal cells that line the intestines. The inflammation and damaged mucosa allows unwanted compounds to enter the blood stream, leading to exposure throughout the entire body. Healing the mucosa and reducing the inflammatory processes is vital to restoring the health of your second brain.

    One of the key features of the patented Olivamine formula found in all Pinnaclife Products is that it has been shown to improve wound healing times.7,8  This means that when you use Olivamine 10 Max, you provide those mucosal cells with the nutrients they need to repair themselves and restore the barrier function of the intestines.

  3. Provide Nourishment:

    There are a wide variety of naturally occurring nutrients and antioxidants that have demonstrated benefits in protecting brain and nerve cells, including those found in the ENS.  Some of the most well researched compounds with the best supporting evidence in brain health come from foods you are probably familiar with including olive leaf extract (hydroxytyrosol), broccoli (sulforaphane), turmeric (curcumin), grapes (resveratrol), and green tea (EGCG).9–15  Some additional nutrients known to be important for brain health include N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), magnesium, L-taurine, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), and vitamin B-12.16–22 Providing your body with enough of these key nutrients is important to restoring and maintaining healthy nerves and brain cells. All of these antioxidants and nutrients are included throughout the Pinnaclife supplement line. 

You will often hear me say that good health begins in the gut, and this is especially true when it comes to the health of your brain.  When our gut tells us that it isn’t feeling very good, we need to listen and take the necessary steps to restore the microbiome, restore the mucosal barrier, and provide nourishment.  You can start today by combining a healthy diet along with the Pinnaclife Digestive Health Pack or the Pinnaclife Brain Support Pack.

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  • Kyle Hilsabeck, PharmD., is the Vice President of Pharmaceutical Affairs at McCord Holdings and licensed by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy.  He completed bachelors degrees in biology and biochemistry at Wartburg College before earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation, he completed a community pharmacy practice residency through the University of Iowa where he focused primarily on nutritional aspects of care including the use of vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.  He has taught courses for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutritional supplements and given many presentations on the subject as well.  He has a passion for improving patient care specifically with regards to the safety and quality of the nutritional supplements and health information people use.


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