Healing the gut-brain axis could be a crucial factor in improving emotional problems after brain injury.

Over the past several years, a multitude of studies has shown the breakdown of the gut-brain axis and our enteric nervous system, after a traumatic brain injury. Damage to the bidirectional highway linking our brain to our gut has become a leading topic surrounding the severity of secondary injury effects from a TBI. Chronic inflammation after a traumatic brain injury can leave patients prone to troubles with emotions, inflammatory digestive disorders, autoimmunity, and ongoing health difficulties for years.

How are emotions related to our gut?

Many forms of concussions cause several complications, such as hormonal imbalance, adrenal insufficiency, and chronic gut problems. Our body’s inflammatory response can disrupt the central and enteric nervous system along with altering the signals within the vagus nerve linking our brain to our gut. Studies connect brain injury and the gut-brain connection to depression, anxiety, and multiple intestinal disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, numerous food allergies, and chronic IBS. Even a mild concussion can disturb the delicate balance of our gut microbiota. A traumatic brain injury can also trigger the decline of “dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA),” altering the brain’s neurotransmitter production that regulates behavior and emotions.

Physicians in the field of functional health who specialize in brain injury, focus on finding and healing the root of the problem. A functional health physician may start by ordering specialized laboratory blood tests to determine the health of the patient’s blood-brain barrier and intestinal environment. Additional testing recommendations for hormone and micronutrient deficiencies could reveal vital information essential for patient recovery.

With the staggering number of traumatic brain injuries occurring each year worldwide, the field of neurogastroenterology could be another ray of hope for many brain injury survivors who suffer from ongoing intestinal dysfunction. Integrative doctors may suggest patients start an anti-inflammatory diet, reduce stress, exercise for improved blood flow, and get adequate sleep every night. Improving emotional problems after a brain injury by working with a qualified cognitive-behavioral therapist to learn the practice of emotional regulation techniques will establish a well-rounded routine aimed to improve daily functioning and long-term health.