The Gut and the Mind
There is an old saying healthy body healthy mind, the microbiome may yield a new class of psychobiotics for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, mental health may depend on creatures in the gut.
It is not a new thought that the state of the gut lead to the state of the mind, going back over 100 years physicians believed that waste in the colon led to “auto intoxication” where poisons emanating from the gut were linked with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
New study and continuing exploration of the human microbiome is showing the link between brain and gut is bidirectional the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain. These interactions could occur in various ways: microbial compounds communicate via the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and the digestive tract, and microbially derived metabolites interact with the immune system, which maintains its own communication with the brain.
If you’ve ever “gone with your gut” to make a decision or felt “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.
Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.
Unlike the big brain in the head this one can not read a book, write a novel or keep track of your accounts, “Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination,” explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.”
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
“These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.”
The importance of food.
About 100 trillion bacteria call your gut home—improve the ratio of good to bad bacteria by eating foods that contain probiotics (various types of healthy bacteria). Probiotics, which include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, keep the lining of the colon healthy and may improve gut motility and sensation.
The following foods are all high in probiotics some are said to have other health benefits as well
Always check labels as many contain added sugar, aim for a live cultured natural yogurt.
Miso is one the mainstays of traditional Japanese medicine and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon of miso to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup.
Made from fermented cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables), sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but might also help with reducing allergy symptoms. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins B, A, E and C.
Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your “inner ecosystem.” More nutritious and therapeutic than yogurt, it supplies complete protein, essential minerals, and valuable B vitamins.
The common green pickle is an excellent food source of probiotics. The less commercialized the better, but most pickles will have some microbial value. An easy one to make yourself.
An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside meals in Korea. Besides beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.
Found in Asian grocery stores and health food stores, Kombucha tea is a dark tea that has been found to increase energy and help with the stomach’s natural digestion.
Since humans are composed of approximately 90% bacteria, it’s essential that we provide our bodies with enough good bacteria for them to perform their jobs properly. It seems that most anxiety, depression and mood treatments center around pills and therapies for the brain, but with these groundbreaking studies coming out about how gut bacteria can ease or even cure them, we may start seeing a drastic change in how these disorders are treated.
Healthy Gut Healthy Mind
Please leave comments and questions I will always answer any you have.