12 things in your home that Lead to Heart Disease
Searching for products?

Are the Gut and Brain Connected?

  This post may contain affiliate links
side pain

Have you ever been nervous and felt it in the pit of your stomach? Or perhaps you’ve just had a “gut feeling” about a decision you’ve faced. Maybe you’ve experienced “butterflies” in your stomach when meeting someone for the first time. 

While it’s easy to dismiss these experiences as mere coincidences, what you feel is not simply your imagination gone wild. As it turns out, researchers are just beginning to realize that “gut feelings” may be far more literal than previously thought. 

A growing body of evidence reveals that the gut and brain regularly communicate. In fact, their relationship is so intricately linked that they often appear to function as one system instead of two distinct ones. 

The second brain you never knew you had

Has anyone ever told you that you have two brains? Of course, there’s the brain that sits in your head. However, there’s also a brain that resides in your gut.  

Lining the gut is a complex web of over 200 million nerves referred to as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is the largest part of the autonomic nervous system and is often called the “second brain.” Because it derives from the same tissue as our central nervous system during fetal development, it shares many similarities to the brain. 

While the enteric nervous system can function independently from the brain and spine, the two constantly communicate with one another in what is described as the gut-brain axis

The village that lives in your gut 

Contrary to what you may have been told, not all bacteria threaten our health. It may surprise you that our guts are packed with bacteria, some of which are beneficial and some potentially harmful. These living organisms share gut space with viruses, parasites, and fungi. Collectively, they make up our microbiome. 

The microbiome begins developing in the womb. A healthy gut is influenced by many factors, including the birthing process, breastmilk vs. formula, outside play time, environmental exposures, and dietary choices, just to name a few. Seemingly small decisions, such as taking a course of antibiotics, can drastically alter the delicate balance of the gut microbiota. Much like a fingerprint, each person’s microbiome is entirely unique to them. 

According to studies, the more diverse and balanced the community of gut microbes, the lower your risk of health problems. Conversely, when an imbalance occurs, called dysbiosis, health begins to fail. 

How do the brain and gut communicate? 

Microbes can’t talk in the same way humans do, and yet they do have a sophisticated communication system. While it’s now abundantly clear that the brain and gut are in constant dialog, scientists are still uncovering exactly how gut microbes communicate with the rest of the body. A few of the communication pathways discovered so far include: 

  • Vagus nerve

The gut’s primary connection to the brain is the vagus nerve. Latin for “wandering,” the vagus nerve runs from the brainstem to the colon. The vagus nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system involved in unconscious bodily responses such as digestion, breathing, and heart rate. The vagal neural pathway appears to be the quickest mode of communication, with messages sent from the brain to the gut and vice versa. 

  • Neurotransmitters

The brain and gut communicate through complex chemicals called neurotransmitters. Researchers have discovered that gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurotransmitters, all of which significantly affect mood. For example, the gut makes approximately 95 percent of the feel-good hormone serotonin. It also produces dopamine, melatonin, and oxytocin. Therefore, an imbalance of bacteria in the gut can significantly impact mood and behavior. And because the relationship goes both ways, dysregulated neurotransmitters may also contribute to gastrointestinal conditions. 

  • Immune cells 

Upwards of 70 percent of our immune system lies in our gastrointestinal tracts, and these immune cells are constantly interacting with the gut microbiome. 

For example, gut organisms interact with immune cells, encouraging the cells to make cytokines that circulate from the blood to the brain. Additionally, many of the cells in the gut’s lining excrete large amounts of antibodies into the gut. 

An unhappy gut = an unhappy mind 

When the gut microbiome is out of balance, the body’s first response is inflammation. This protective reaction is helpful at first. However, the inflammation becomes chronic and destructive when the body must continuously respond to an imbalanced microbiome. 

Numerous studies have linked the gut microbiota to inflammatory diseases. As a result, many neurological diseases are now classified as inflammatory disorders. 

Poor gut health has been linked to the onset and progression of many neurological conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Attention deficit disorder 
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia 
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Huntington’s disease

Next steps

The best way to achieve optimal brain health is by nurturing your gut. How do you do this? It starts by eating a whole-food organic diet and eliminating gut-destroying processed foods. Then, add in some quality sleep and moderate exercise. Next, remove as much stress as possible from your life. Finally, steer clear of toxins and chemicals from beauty products and household cleaners. You will naturally protect and heal your brain by showing respect and gratitude to your gut, the true keeper of the peace. 

For more information on fueling your gut, be sure to check out NHDs Foundational Nutrition online course!

Eat well, Live well, Think well

Medical Review: Lauren Lattanza NMD 2022


You may also enjoy these posts...

About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.


Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.


Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.