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Functional Endocrinology: The Gut and "Chemo-Brain" Connection

Do you feel:

  • Nausea or feel like vomiting?
  • Agitated, easily upset, or nervous?
  • Poor muscle endurance?
  • Waking up tired after six or more hours of sleep?
  • Depression or a lack of motivation?
If you are experiencing any of these situations, then something might be wrong with your gut and brain connection in your body.

Gut-Brain Connection

The gut and brain connection go hand in hand as they send signals back and forth to make sure that that human body starts functioning correctly. The gut makes sure that its entire gastrointestinal system, the endocrine system, and the hepatic system is functioning correctly. While the brain makes sure that its neurological system is working but also sending out signals to the entire body as well as making sure that the hormones are distributed to the essential organs.


Chemo-Brain and Gut Connection

Even though the gut and brain connection is vital for a healthy body, however, when it comes to a person who has cancer may have a “chemo-brain” and gut connection when they are getting treatments from chemotherapy. Since chemotherapy is the conventional standard of care for treating cancer by consistently combining particular drugs that kills cancer cells. Throughout the world, there are over 100 types of cancer that can attack the cells and then spread out through the different organs and tissues in the human body. According to research from the CDC, it stated that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US.

There is more information about what chemotherapy does to the body since chemotherapy works by putting a stop on cancer cells from proliferating or even slowing down the rate of cancer cell growth. Sadly though, even though chemotherapy can target fast-growing cancer cells, it can also kill the body's healthy cells as well. When the healthy cells are being attacked by chemotherapy, the cells can cause a long list of painful side effects. For example, the epithelial cells in the GI tract can be damaged, and it can cause many cancer patients to stop the chemo treatment prematurely.

In a recent study that was published in Frontier in Pharmacology, it showed that scientists had discovered a new method to deliver chemotherapy that can attack the malignant cells in the body while leaving the healthy cells alone. With this technique, it can provide a little bit of hope by allowing doctors to lower the dosages of the chemo treatment to reduce the patients’ suffering from any of the harsher adverse effects of chemo, which can increase compliance and improve the overall prognosis for the patients.

In a recent journal study, a research scientist from Ohio State University has discovered a possible solution to help improve the undesirable gastrointestinal and cognitive side effects that were caused by chemotherapy. According to the research, the model showed how the link between the gut and brain symptoms perform in chemotherapy treatment. The results showed how the chemo drugs entirely altered the human gut microbiome. They stated that the gut bacteria and the body tissue changed while the blood and brain in the body show signs of inflammation-causing fatigue and cognitive impairment. When chemo treatments cause inflammation is in the neurological system, it can make the entire system be correlated with disruptive colonic and bacterial homeostasis in the body.
With chemotherapy, it can cause intestinal permeability. It can trigger the immune system in the body to over activating and signaling the brain's immune cells to be inflamed while also be the culprit to "chemo brain." Chemo-brain is defined as cognitive impairment and causing the person to have mental fogginess that can linger for months or even years after the cancer is gone. Surprisingly with this new phenomenon, chemo-brain has affected more than half of the cancer survivors while becoming a common thing as cancer therapies can extend the patient’s lifespan.

With this type of research, it can shed some light on how the gut microbiome's health can be more affected than the digestive tract, since the gut plays a hugely critical role in all the other systems in the body, especially in the immune and nervous system. By looking at the existing evidence, they show how the health and wellbeing of the body's gut and brain are connected. It can lead to better interventions for many cancer patients by promoting a beneficial bacterial composition for the gut and can protect against any neuroinflammation to reduce any symptoms of chemo-brain.

Probiotics and Prebiotics Benefits

Hippocrates was right when he stated that "all diseases begin in the gut." The information paved the way for many functional medicine practitioners to help many cancer patients. By adding any anti-inflammatory foods in a person's diet like the Mediterranean diet or even a plant-based ketogenic diet is excellent for cancer patients. It is recommended for cancer patients to increase their intake of prebiotics and probiotic-rich food. It is proven that probiotics and prebiotics can help reduce the negative side effect that most patients go through during their chemotherapy experience. With prebiotics and probiotics, they are fiber-rich foods that can be fermented and be consumed so people can get the beneficial and commensal bacteria that are residing in the gut and can improve the gut microbiome composition.


With the gut and brain connection, they work together by making sure the body is functioning correctly. When it is chemo-brain, however, it can cause dysfunction in the body by impairing the body's entire system through chemotherapy. By adding probiotics and prebiotics to a cancer patient's diet can help them at least get their body the nutrition and beneficial properties they need. Some products are beneficial to the body by supporting not only the gut but also making sure that the brain is being supported as well.

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.


Arora, Malika, et al. “Impact of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Colon Cancer: Mechanistic Insights and Future Approaches.” Latest TOC RSS, Bentham Science Publishers, 1 Jan. 1970,

Caldwell, Emily. “A Possible Gut-Brain Connection to 'Chemo Brain'.” Medical Xpress - Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 23 Oct. 2019,

Caldwell, Emily. “The Gut May Be the Ticket to Reducing Chemo's Side Effects.” Medical Xpress - Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 11 Nov. 2019,

Loman, B. R., et al. “Chemotherapy-Induced Neuroinflammation Is Associated with Disrupted Colonic and Bacterial Homeostasis in Female Mice.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 11 Nov. 2019,

Neumann-Raizel, Hagit, et al. “2-APB and CBD-Mediated Targeting of Charged Cytotoxic Compounds Into Tumor Cells Suggests the Involvement of TRPV2 Channels.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 17 Sept. 2019,

staff, Science X. “'Chemo Brain' Caused by Malfunction in Three Types of Brain Cells, Study Finds.” Medical Xpress - Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 6 Dec. 2018,

staff, Science X. “Technique Targets Cancer Cells and Leaves Healthy Ones Alone.” Medical Xpress - Medical Research Advances and Health News, Medical Xpress, 27 Nov. 2019,

Team, DFH. “New Research - Gut Solutions to Chemotherapy.” Designs for Health, 2 Jan. 2020,

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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN* email: phone: 915-850-0900 Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*