The GUT-BRAIN Axis- the surprising relationship between your gut and brain

I recently wrote an article for Women's Health Magazine Australia, diving deep into the GUT-BRAIN Axis.

So I thought I would share some of the key takeaways from that article, and what you need to know about the GUT-BRAIN axis. 

You can read the full article here


The GUT-BRAIN AXIS consists of both a physical & chemical connections between your gut & your brain. 

    •  The CHEMICAL connection involves the neurotransmitters & other chemicals produced in your gut by your MICROBIOME (these influence your mood & mental function) and can have an impact on the HPA-AXIS. 
    •  The PHYSICAL connection involves the VAGUS NERVE (the main component of our parasympathetic nervous system) which runs from the base of our brain stem into our digestive system. 

You know when you get bad news and get that sinking feeling in your stomach or your nervous and feel "butterflies in your stomach"? Or diarrhoea/constipation when stressed OR nausea when your nervous? This is the vagus nerve sending signals from the brain to the digestive system.


We also have neurons in both our brain and our gut (100 Billion in the brain & 500 million in the gut). Neurons (nerve cells) tell our body how to behave. 

So when the GUT function is imbalanced (through microbiome dysbiosis, intestinal permeability or more) the neurons in the gut will impact the neurons in the brain, the vagus nerve will send altered signals & neurotransmitter deficiencies can occur.

This is why supporting healthy microbiome function & gut wall health is essential when treating any type of mood disorder.


Genetics play a role if whether people have a healthier/stronger gut-brain connection. There are genes that will impact neurotransmitter production, gut barrier integrity, inflammation & immune response.

One of the main gene variants is MTHFR: this plays a role in neurotransmitter production, 44% of women have a variant on their MTHFR gene that impacts its ability to convert folate into its active form, elevates homocysteine and disrupts the immune response. These can severely impact a persons mood and healthy gut-brain connection (among many other things).

Other influences on the strength of a persons gut-brain connection include early life trauma & illness


Things that can impact the gut-brain connection:

  •  Chronic stress & high cortisol
  •  Antibiotics
  •  Trauma
  •  Grief
  •  Nutritional deficiencies: magnesium, zinc, b vitamins, vitamin d
  •  Regular alcohol intake
  •  Not enough physical exercise
  •  Genetics
  •  Early environmental exposure to diverse microbes 


Foods to support both the gut & brain health

  •  Anti-inflammatory foods to bring down inflammation in both the gut and brain: Berries, any red/orange/purple fruit and vegetable, oily fish
  •  Zinc & Magnesium Rich foods to support gut wall health and neurotransmitter production: Chia seeds, hemp seeds, pepitas, chicken, green leafy vegetables, red meat, oysters, legumes, bone broth
  •  B Vitamin Rich Foods (B1,B2,B3,B5,B6,B9,B12) for gut wall health, neurotransmitter production, methylation and brain health: Red meat, chicken, eggs, salmon, dairy
  •  Prebiotic foods (foods for the microbiome): Olive oil, green tea, fennel, asparagus, onion, garlic, globe artichoke
  •  Fermented foods (rich in beneficial bacteria): kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kvass, pickles, apple cedar vinegar