How Your Gut Can Affect Your Mind
How Your Gut Can Affect Your Mind
The microbes that live in your body might just be influencing your behavior.
You might be tempted to think that the skin we use to touch and feel is the largest interface we have with our surroundings. But you would be wrong; our gut is much bigger. And how it behaves may have a significant impact on how our brains function.
Curled up inside us, our intestines have a surface area of around 344 square feet, the same size as a small studio apartment in New York City. A human’s gut hosts trillions of microbes. Our intestinal walls absorb and interact with all the molecules we ingest, but so do these microscopic chemists that live inside us. They take the nutrients in and then pump out a raft of new chemicals.
This community of bugs is diverse and relatively stable—an ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In exchange for raw materials and shelter, the microorganisms, collectively known as the microbiome, feed and protect their hosts.
But the influence of our microbial community doesn’t stop there. Studies have shown that our microbiome may play a role in mental health and neurological conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and depression by interacting with our nervous system and even releasing molecules that can perhaps make their way to the brain. More research and trials are needed to understand how the gut and the brain are linked, but researchers suggest that their findings might one day lead to treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.
Doctors have been wondering about the links between digestion and mental health since the 19th century. Inspired by famed scientist Louis Pasteur, who speculated in 1885 that animals lacking bacteria would die, European doctors began investigating the significance of microbes located in the digestive system. Perhaps, the doctors suggested, “toxins” produced by microbes in the gut were poisoning the minds of their patients. This area of study became hugely popular for a few decades before being discredited, and medical science moved on.
since then, evidence has slowly been mounting that intestinal microbiota are linked to mood, behavior, and cognition. Focus has been on the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is like a superhighway between the gut and the brain. One of the 12 major nerves that directly connect the body to the brain, its name comes from the Latin for “wandering,” because it links dozens of parts of the body to the medulla oblongata, a grape-sized bit of tissue in humans that’s located at the base of the brain. With all its connections, the vagus nerve gives us a sense of how our bodies are doing. “Sometimes you just feel good; sometimes we feel crappy. That is your vagus nerve telling you what’s going on,” explains one researcher.
The exact mechanism by which the gut microbiome interacts with the vagus nerve isn’t known. But the fact that these changes didn’t happen in animals that had their vagus nerve cut is evidence that it is definitely involved in communicating between the gut microbiome and the brain.
As more research is done, many scientists believe a solid connection will be made between the gut and the brain, one that can open doors to modern therapies that will help treat mental health disorders by addressing the gut. In the meantime, lifestyle and diet changes can have a profound impact on both the body and mood. We encourage you to learn more about this. We can also offer help and guidance in improving your gut health. Contact us for more information.
In the meantime, we can address mental health issues in the Orlando, Maitland and Altamonte Springs area and using neurofeedback, a computer-based system for balancing and restoring healthy brain activity. Neurofeedback has over 5 decades of research studies that show its effectiveness in helping improve or eliminate many neurological conditions. To learn more, click on the neurofeedback link on this page.
This article was republished under the creative commons license from the Chemical & Engineering News website. You can read the full article here;