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Why your gut is your second brain

Why your gut is your second brain

Have you ever experienced ‘butterflies’ in your stomach when you were nervous? Or simply experienced some gastrointestinal issues when anxious? Research shows gut health issues worsen when we're anxious, and this is down to our 'gut-brain axis', and is just one of the reasons why our gut health is so important. 

Here we explain the gut-brain axis and why our gut is known as 'the second brain'.

What is the gut-brain axis?

The gut and the brain are intrinsically connected. They communicate in both directions all the time through 'the vagus nerve' - think of the vagus nerve as a telephone wire between the two. However, our gut and brain also communicate through our hormones, which are like a wireless signal, through 'neurotransmitters' throughout our body. 

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Neurotransmitters are a chemical substance which is released at the end of a nerve fibre, triggered by a nerve impulse. The vagus nerve and neurotransmitters combine to form 'the gut-brain axis'.

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body that starts from the brain and runs through to the abdomen, and branches to other organs. It sends information about the state of our gut to the brain and delivers messages such as 'hunger', 'thirst', cravings for particular foods, and much more.

The second brain

Our gut is referred to as the ‘second brain’ because it is lined with nerves and has the same types of neurons and neurotransmitters as our brain. As a result, our gut controls the digestive process, manages the absorption of nutrients, and tells our brain what is going on across our body and what our body needs. Learn more about why you should improve your gut health.

Healthy gut microbes produce substances called ‘short-chain fatty acids'. There are different types of short-chain fatty acids such as 'acetate', 'butyrate' and 'propionate', and research shows they play a vital role in our overall health and our brain health.

Gut-brain axis and stress

Short- chain fatty acids alter the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA. Low levels of GABA have been associated with symptoms such as sugar cravings, anxiety, low mood and insomnia. The more short-chain fatty acids in our gut, the more GABA we produce and the greater the resistance our body has to stress.
You may also enjoy 'How your diet can improve your mental health'.

A healthy gut microbiome helps increase the production and communication of our happy hormone called 'serotonin'. Serotonin produced from the gut is sent back up to the brain, calming our mood.

Butyrate fatty acids support the intestinal lining. It is important we keep the tight junctions that form part of the intestinal barrier strong and healthy. This prevents substances including bad bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins, from leaking through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream (also known as 'Leaky Gut Syndrome') where they otherwise cause illness and health conditions. You may also enjoy learning about the six signs of an unhealthy gut.

Gut-brain axis and brain performance

Short-chain fatty acids produced in our gut by healthy gut microbes are vital for brain health, and 'butyrate' is the mainstay short-chain fatty acid at the heart of the gut-brain axis and the relationship between a healthy gut, mental performance and brain health.

Butyrate acts as a signalling agent in the gut-brain axis. Butyrate supplies ‘brain food’ to the part of the brain involved with long-term memory and emotions.

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Our brain is also protected by the 'blood-brain barrier' and butyrate plays a vital role in protecting the brain by shielding it from harmful toxins or infectious agents that may be present in our gut through food or drink, or that we contract through illness or disease.

Recommended supplements for brain health

Gut Works®

Gut Works® is a unique probiotic and prebiotic that rebalances your gut microbiome with healthy, active bacteria, supporting your gut-brain axis and in turn a balanced mood, feelings of calm, and fuelling your focus, cognitive processes and mental performance. 


Gut Works® is shown in research to be 3x more effective than standard probiotics, and 82% of users find it effective. Learn more about Gut Works® and how Gut Works® works

Vegan Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for our brain health and the function of our brain. While animal sources of Omega 3, such as mackerel and salmon contain long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, plant sources contain short-chain Omega 3 fatty acids called ALA (alpha-linolenic acids) which our body converts into EPA and DHA.

Unless you eat a lot of oily fish or plant foods rich in these fatty acids, you're likely to be deficient in Omega 3 - some studies suggest more than two-thirds of the global population are deficient in Omega 3. Discover our highly absorbable vegan Omega 3 for your brain, heart and vision health, sustainably sourced from algae.

Brain Fuel®

Brain Fuel® is an acclaimed formula including the patented and clinically studied BacoMind®, shown in studies over 12 weeks to improve memory recall by 24%, reduce the impact of memory disturbance by 50% and improved memory recall by 78%. Brain Fuel® also includes vital nutrients for optimal cognitive function and brain health including Ginkgo Biloba, Phosphatidylserine, Zinc and B vitamins.

A study of customers taking Brain Fuel® daily for 3 months showed they enjoyed:

*based on a user rating from month 0 to month 3, across 40 individuals.

Discover Brain Fuel® today for optimal focus, memory, mental performance and brain health.

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