Dr. Jill Carnahan: The Gut-Brain Connection – IMMH 2023 Highlight

The Gut-Brain Connection: how the gut impacts our brains and moods, and how to optimise our gut for better mental health

Enjoy this fantastic talk from IMMH 2023 by Dr. Jill Carnahan, Board Certified in Family Practice and Functional Medicine, Cancer and Crohn’s thriver, and author of Unexpected: Finding Resilience through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith on the all important gut-brain connection. In this fascinating and information-rich extract from Dr. Carnahan’s brilliant lecture for IMMH 2023, learn about the bidirectional communication between our brain and our guts, mediated via the vagus nerve, and how it is fundamental to our sleep, moods, anxiety levels, and overall mental and physical health.

Dr. Carnahan explains how the gut and brain communicate via the vagus nerve which acts as a superhighway between the two, mediating hormones, neurotransmitters, microbes, inflammatory and healing molecules. She shows how a healthy gut is key to modulating inflammation and neuroinflammation throughout the system and the brain, and shows the key factors that disrupt gut permeability and healthy neurotransmitter production.

Learn about:

  • The key molecules involved in the gut-brain connection such as hormones, neurotransmitters, microbes, short chain fatty acids, inflammatory cytokines, and why they matter
  • The role of various inflammatory molecules such as TNF alpha and IL6, and how we can improve our gut health to reduce neuro-inflammation which is correlated with mood, mental health and neurodegenerative disorders
  • Why the vagus nerve, as the mediator of bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, is so important to our mental health, and its role in the production of BDNF, the health of our microbiome, and inflammation
  • How to tone the vagus nerve for better physical and mental health
  • The relationship between the microbiome, the vagus nerve, neurotransmitter production, gut permeability and chronic stress
  • The gut metabolites that are correlated with mood and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Why gut bacteria diversity is essential for our resilience to psychological and emotional stressors, as well as physiological stressors such as toxins and pathogens
  • How probiotics can backfire and reduce microbial diversity, do psychobiotics actually work, and how we truly increase a diverse gut flora
  • How coffee and cacao are beneficial to the gut
  • The role of gluten in the gut-brain connection and why it tends to manifest in mood and neurological symptoms
  • The key factors increasing gut permeability, from strenuous exercise, lack of sleep, inflammatory foods, toxins especially moulds, NSAIDs
  • Endotoxemia and LPS: what they are, how they are impacted by fasting and saturated fats, and why they are so important for our mental and physical health
  • The ketogenic diet and gut health: why excessive saturated fats can be problematic for the gut
  • Why short-chain-fatty-acids are essential to gut and mental health and how they work


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