Let's Travel to Vagus to Win Big on Our Mental Health

If you have ever experienced butterflies in your stomach before an important job interview or giving a big presentation, then you have experienced the brain-gut connection. But what exactly is this connection? let's head to Vagus to find out.

Gut-brain axis

Far from the flashing lights and casinos, our Vagus nerve is all about shuttling information between our gut and our brain. It operates like an information highway sending and receiving signals in both directions.

The Vagus nerve is connected to the millions of nerve cells lining our gut. These nerve cells sense what is happening inside our gut and send that information back to our brain. In this way our gut functions like our second brain.[1] Any disturbances in the gut will be sent to the brain and vice versa. So, if you're feeling stressed don't be surprised if you start sensing some changes in your gut.

Microbiota-gut-brain axis 

The bacteria that live in our intestine have a major influence on the information that is shuttled along our gut-brain axis.1 These microbes produce the same neurotransmitters that our brain uses to regulate our mood and cognition like serotonin, dopamine, GABA and acetylcholine.[2] In fact 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut.

This means that the balance of microbes in our gut can have a big impact in regulating how we are feeling.

Stress and the gut-brain axis

Persistent stress can cause things to go haywire in our gut. The hormones we release when we are stressed can promote inflammation, over-activation of our immune system and gut-flora imbalances (dysbiosis).[3] When inflammation from your gut reaches your brain, it can create imbalances in the neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood and sleep.[4] [5]

Supporting our gut brain axis

How do we support this line of communication between out gut and brain?

Having a well-balanced microbial community in your intestines is the key to your health.

The rise of psychobiotics

Psychobiotics are the term for probiotics that have a positive effect on how we think and feel.[6] Far from turning you into a 'psycho', studies are showing that these probiotic-based treatments may decrease stress hormones and improve mood and memory.6

The majority of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains that have been studied for mental health have shown beneficial effects. A large review of 71 studies on probiotics and mental health, found that all of the probiotics included in the research demonstrated a positive effect on mood. The most commonly used species were Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casaei and Bifidobacterium bifidium.[7]


Another vital connection to your mood and energy levels are your mitochondria!

Mitochondria are the tiny energy generating factories inside our cells. They work like a rechargeable battery for our cells providing energy when they need it.

Our nervous system requires a constant supply of energy with our brain alone using up 20% of the energy our mitochondria make each day.[8] Any damage to the mitochondria within our nervous system may cause an imbalance in our neurotransmitters which could affect our mood.[9]

Mitochondria provide the energy for our muscles to function during exercise. However, if they become dysfunctional, they produce less energy and more oxidative stress which can trigger muscle weakness and fatigue.[10]

As we get older our mitochondria decrease in size and number, this is a major driver of ageing.[11]

Feeding your mitochondria

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) acts like a spark in the cell that ignites our energy production. It is vital during the final stages of cellular energy production in the electron transport chain.[12] CoQ10 is found in the highest concentrations in the cells that need the most energy like the heart, liver, kidneys and skeletal muscles.11 It supports the high energy demands of our brain, heart and working muscles.

CoQ10 is also a fat-soluble antioxidant that can protect our cells from the free radicals generated during energy production.11 In our nervous system CoQ10 protects against the free radical damage and inflammation that may affect our mood.[13] [14] Reduced levels of CoQ10 can affect our mitochondrial function and in turn our mental wellbeing.

CoQ10 can support energy production and help with recovery from exercise, by reducing oxidative damage and regulating inflammation.[15] [16]

As we age, our natural production of CoQ10 declines.11 Additionally, if we are stressed, or lead an inactive lifestyle it will further deplete our stores.

Cholesterol lowering medications (statins) inhibit your body's CoQ10 production and current research suggests that CoQ10 is a good option if you are taking statins.11 [17] In older adults, CoQ10 is great for maintaining a healthy heart and vascular system.11

Magnesium Orotate is a well absorbed form of magnesium without any of the laxative side effects. Orotic acid helps to transport magnesium across cell membranes and into our cells where it’s needed.[18] [19] This is a winning combination to rejuvenate our 'tired' cells.

Orotic acid can help maintain cellular energy through the production of ribose-5-phosphate and Uridine.[20] Orotic acid is protective for the heart especially during high intensity exercise.[21] In a trial done with competitive triathletes, magnesium orotate given for 4 weeks significantly improved swimming times and reduced cortisol levels.[22]

Orotic acid may also support memory through the production of uridine. Uridine is used to create phosphatidylcholine, which is further converted into acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory, attention and mental performance. [23] [24]

Emerging research suggests that uridine helps to relieve symptoms of low mood[25]. It is thought to help with mood via increasing dopamine release and enhancing mitochondrial function.[26]

Magnesium activates important enzymes involved in energy metabolism.[27] It is involved in metabolizing glucose (sugar) into energy, restoring ATP to depleted muscles, and regulating our stress hormones. This means it an ideal nutrient for supporting our busy, active and sometimes stressful lifestyles.25 [28]

The next time you get a 'gut-feeling' about something you will know that is because our gut is literally our second brain. It’s essential to support your gut-brain axis and gut flora to balance your mind and body. Take care of your microbiome and it will take care of you!

Probiotics, Coenzyme Co10, and Magnesium orotate are all impressive nutrients that support your mood, and energy levels. And...If you're falling asleep on the way to work, you might just need some CoQ10 and magnesium orotate to recharge your body and mind to help you to power through your day.

Click here to checkout NRGBiotic, our probiotic mood support.

This article does not a represent a product description, nor a summary of therapeutic indications of any of Medlab’s products. If you are interested in a Medlab product, please read the product label or the product information published in the product section prior to purchase. If you are unsure whether a product is right for you, please talk to a healthcare professional.


[1] Breit S, Kupferberg A, Rogler G, Hasler G. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:44. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018. 4

[2] Bonaz B, Bazin T, Pellissier S. The Vagus Nerve at the Interface of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:49. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018. 9

[3] Yong SJ, Tong T, Chew J, Lim WL. Antidepressive Mechanisms of Probiotics and Their Therapeutic Potential. Front Neurosci. 2020;13:1361. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.01361

[4] Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield S. Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017;7(4):987. doi:10.4081/cp.2017.987

[5] Maydych V. The Interplay Between Stress, Inflammation, and Emotional Attention: Relevance for Depression. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:384. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.00384

[6] Sarkar A, Lehto SM, Harty S, Dinan TG, Cryan JF, Burnet PWJ. Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria-Gut-Brain Signals. Trends Neurosci. 2016;39(11):763-781. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2016.09.002

[7] Noonan S, Zaveri M, Macaninch E, et al. Food & mood: a review of supplementary prebiotic and probiotic interventions in the treatment of anxiety and depression in adults. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. 2020;bmjnph-2019-000053. doi:10.1136/bmjnph-2019-000053

[8] Watts ME, Pocock R, Claudianos C. Brain Energy and Oxygen Metabolism: Emerging Role in Normal Function and Disease. Front Mol Neurosci. 2018;11:216. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2018.00216

[9] Chen J, Vitetta L. Mitochondria could be a potential key mediator linking the intestinal microbiota to depression. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. 2019;121(1):17-24.

[10] Mattman A, Sirrs S, Mezei MM, Salvarinova-Zivkovic R, Alfadhel M, Lillquist Y. Mitochondrial disease clinical manifestations: an overview. British Columbia Medical Journal. 2011 May 1;53(4):183-187.

[11] Akbari M, Kirkwood TBL, Bohr VA. Mitochondria in the signaling pathways that control longevity and health span. Ageing Res Rev. 2019;54:100940. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2019.100940

[12] Barcelos IP, Haas RH. CoQ10 and Aging. Biology (Basel). 2019;8(2):28. doi:10.3390/biology8020028

[13] Maes M, Mihaylova I, Kubera M, Uytterhoeven M, Vrydags N, Bosmans E. Lower plasma Coenzyme Q10 in depression: a marker for treatment resistance and chronic fatigue in depression and a risk factor to cardiovascular disorder in that illness. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2009;30(4):462-469.

[14] Morris, G., Anderson, G., Berk, M. et al. Coenzyme Q10 Depletion in Medical and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: Potential Repercussions and Therapeutic Implications. Mol Neurobiol. 2013;48:883–903.

[15] Cooke M, et al. Effects of acute and 14-day coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:8. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-8

[16] Díaz-Castro J, Guisado R, Kajarabille N, García C, Guisado IM, de Teresa C, Ochoa JJ. Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation ameliorates inflammatory signaling and oxidative stress associated with strenuous exercise. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Oct;51(7):791-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0257-5. Epub 2011 Oct 12. PMID:

[17] Mehrabani, Sanaz, et al. Effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on fatigue: A systematic review of interventional studies. Complementary therapies in medicine. 2019; 43:181-187. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.01.022

[18] Zeana C. Magnesium orotate in myocardial and neuronal protection. Rom J Intern Med. 1999;37(1):91-97.

[19] Classen HG. Magnesium orotate-experimental and clinical evidence. Rom J Intern Med. 2004;42(3):491-501.

[20] Löffler M, Carrey EA & Zameitat E. Orotate (orotic acid): An essential and versatile molecule, Nucleosides, Nucleotides & Nucleic Acids. 2016; 35:10-12, 566-577. doi: 10.1080/15257770.2016.1147580

[21] Rosenfeldt FL, Richards SM, Lin Z, Pepe S, Conyers RA. Mechanism of cardioprotective effect of orotic acid. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998;12 Suppl 2:159-70. doi: 10.1023/a:1007700716866.

[22] Golf SW, Bender S, Grüttner J. On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998;12(2):197-202.

[23] Agarwal N, Sung YH, Jensen JE, daCunha G, Harper D, Olson D, Renshaw PF. Short-term administration of uridine increases brain membrane phospholipid precursors in healthy adults: a 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy study at 4T. Bipolar Disord. 2010 Dec;12(8):825-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5618.2010.00884.x.

[24] Wurtman RJ, Cansev M, Sakamoto T, Ulus I. Nutritional modifiers of aging brain function: use of uridine and other phosphatide precursors to increase formation of brain synapses. Nutr Rev. 2010 Dec;68 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S88-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00344.x. PMID: 21091953; PMCID: PMC3062998.

[25] Pereira C, Chavarria V, Vian J, Ashton MM, Berk M, Marx W, Dean OM. Mitochondrial Agents for Bipolar Disorder. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Jun 1;21(6):550-569. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyy018. 


[26] Wang L, Pooler AM, Albrecht MA, Wurtman RJ. Dietary uridine-5'-monophosphate supplementation increases potassium-evoked dopamine release and promotes neurite outgrowth in aged rats. J Mol Neurosci. 2005;27(1):137-45. doi: 10.1385/JMN:27:1:137.

[27] Pilchova I, Klacanova K, Tatarkova Z, Kaplan P, Racay P. The Involvement of Mg2+ in Regulation of Cellular and Mitochondrial Functions. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:6797460. doi:10.1155/2017/6797460

[28] Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, et al. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3672. doi:10.3390/nu12123672

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