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The Connection Between Your Gut and Your Brain

Updated on July 6, 2015

In the past several years, a great deal of scientific research has focused on the role micr-organisms in our digestive tract play in physiological health. These micro-organisms include the bacteria,protozoans, fungi, and other microscopic visitors that take up residence in the gut of the human body.

Bacteria in Digestive Tract

Scientists have determined that the existence or absence of these organisms, as well as the ratios in which they are present, can affect the ease of digestion, the development of certain bowel disorders and can even play a part in obesity.

If flora in our digestive system can influence physical health, what significance does it have on emotional health?

Most of us have experienced an upset stomach as a result of a stressful situation; we also know that the brain is our control center, which determines when we are actually experiencing stress. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the brain’s reaction to stimuli elicits physiological responses in our digestive system. Conversely, does activity in the digestive system also influence the brain?


Brain Health

In an article on this topic written by Emily Deans, M.D., published by Psychology Today, it states, “…the make-up of our gut microbiome could make the difference as to whether we are sick or well, both mentally and physically.” 1

Mr. Mark Lyte, a professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, is currently receiving significant grant support for research focused on the connection between the digestive tract and the brain as it relates to anxiety brought on by infection. He believes that studies have already shown that the relationship between micro-organisms in the digestive tract and the nervous system is such that it opens up a new approach for improving neurological functioning. He has said, “A recent study in mice, for example, showed that the presence of neurochemicals such as serotonin in the bloodstream was due to direct uptake from the gut.” 2

A study published by a group of scientists in 2011, involved giving mice babies a live bacteria found in yogurt. Those that received the bacteria supplement and then were exposed to stimuli creating stress were much more relaxed. The conclusion was that the bacteria had an effect on the nervous systems of those mice.

The logical jump is that there is a correlation between micro-flora and mood and / or anxiety with humans, as well. Is this the case? Additional research is underway to uncover this answer.

Until recently, most of the research involving how micro-organisms affect the human body has been focused on their negative impact.

While scientists, at this point, are not suggesting a run on the probiotics section of the pharmacy, there is promise that a deeper understanding of how intestinal flora impacts both physiological and emotional health is near. With this knowledge, new treatment protocols could be close at hand for those suffering from certain physiological and emotional health concerns.

Sources:

1) Deans, Emily, M.D. :“The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness, and Disease” [https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease], originally published in Evolutionary Psychiatry

2) Angelica, Amara: “Can taking probiotics improve your mental health?” by Amara Angelica: [ http://www.kurzweilai.net/can-taking-probiotics-improve-your-mental-health]

3) Smith, Peter Andrey: “Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?”: [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/can-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-explain-your-mood.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0]


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