Who's Really in Charge: Your Brain or Your Gut?

BRAIN and GUTS

If you’ve been having a hard time paying attention to things or just haven’t been feeling emotionally well, your first thought probably wasn’t that your gut could be the source of the issue.

You might be wondering why you should worry about your gut, because it’s so far removed from the brain and from thought, right? As it turns out, the gut and the brain aren’t as removed from each other as you might think.

 

There’s a Connection Between Our Brain and Our Gut?

There is! Recently, there have been a few studies done on the microbiome in the gut and its effect on the rest of the body, including the brain. One study in particular observed the way that mouse brains change depending on the bacteria that the mice ingest. In short, the results of this study strongly suggest that the bacteria in our gut communicates with and influences the brain in terms of mood and behavior. Their research showed the following in mice as a response to being fed specific kinds of bacteria:

  • The increased production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that functions like an antidepressant
  • Connections between the gut microbiome and stress-related psychiatric conditions like anxiety, mood disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • A change in the levels of repetitive behaviors which are associated with autism (1)

The implications of their findings give diet more credibility as a means to support neurological conditions.

Another study may be able to provide some more insight to why the human gut may have such a strong say in neurological conditions. This recent study sought to explore associated links between fecal bacteria and visceral fat by studying over 3,600 twins. The findings of this study support the theory that the bacteria in our waste, about 50% of which come from our gut, are directly related to a person’s risk factor for diabetes and cardio-metabolic diseases. (2)

This study also found that the composition of bacteria in our gut seems to be inherited, explaining why conditions like diabetes and obesity run in families. It makes sense that the hereditary nature of such conditions would come down to bacteria; every individual’s first exposure to gut bacteria comes from the mother’s birth canal. And with ten times more bacteria than human cells in our body, why wouldn’t those bacteria have such a strong say in a person’s risk factor for hereditary conditions?

 

Someone Else’s Feces May Support Your Gut

That probably sounds really unappealing, but stick with me for a moment. See, the fact that fecal bacteria can be so indicative of the microbiome in our gut suggests that feces itself may have some sort of answer. For instance, what would happen if we used the bacteria in a healthy person’s feces to strengthen someone else’s gut microbiome through, say, a fecal transplant?

Yes. Fecal transplants exist.

Sparing you the gritty details, fecal transplants introduce the bacteria of a healthy person’s feces to another person’s gastrointestinal tract where the bacteria can thrive. It’s a treatment that has proven successful in treating people infected by a bacterium that can inflame the colon and is linked to diarrhea and serious intestinal conditions.(3)

It’s not just our feces that can affect us, either. It probably goes without saying that feces in general is something you don’t want to come in contact with since it can be a source of some unhealthy things. Cat feces, for example, can carry a parasite that affects memory and reading skills in children.(4)

 

Why Does This Matter?

All this research suggests that our diet could change the microbiome in our gut and may alter our risk factor for physical and mental conditions.

So if you are having trouble focusing or aren’t feeling emotionally well, it might be some bacteria in your gut that’s giving you a hard time. If your gut is the root cause of your difficulties, or the root cause of any issue that seems to only be related to the brain like, say, anxiety or depression or trouble sleeping—if we can consider the gut to be the root cause of such conditions, then we may be able to support those conditions with something as simple as changing what we eat.

The potential solution, then, would be to expose ourselves to more kinds of bacteria, which are especially present in fresh vegetables. For a list of diets that may support specific conditions, check out our list of food remedies.

Something else to consider is the ingestion of probiotics to introduce healthy bacteria to our system. These good bacteria could do more for us than modern medicine can, supporting:

  • The control of “bad” bacteria that are linked to diseases
  • The proliferation of more good bacteria
  • The promotion of mineral absorption and vitamin production, absorption, and consumption
  • The elimination of toxins
  • Weight management
  • And, most relevantly, the improvement of one’s mood and mental wellbeing

While you can get some probiotics from foods like organic yogurt, it’s important to be aware of which probiotics those foods have. The three probiotic strains you’ll likely want to be on the lookout for are Lactobacillus, E. coli, and Bifidobacteria, as they support your intestinal tract and may strengthen your intestinal wall. Be aware of which strains your foods contain, and consider taking a high-quality probiotic like Probiotic Synergy™ to support the diversity of your gut microflora.

If you ever feel like your mind isn’t running optimally, consider your gut to be at fault and alter your diet to try to solve it. After all, your gut’s the one in control.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.kavlifoundation.org/science-spotlights/mind-bending-power-bacteria#.WCDBvuErI2I
  2. http://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-1052-7
  3. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1205037#t=article
  4. http://www.ibtimes.com.au/owning-cats-can-make-kids-perform-poorly-school-1450935

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