Yep. That’s right. We’re not completely human. And thank goodness! We’ve delegated a lot of tasks to our microbe inhabitants: vitamin creation, food digestion, immune system regulation and, quite fascinatingly, mental health management. Depression and anxiety are conditions that can be affected by our bacterial flora.
If your body is like a walking Bed and Breakfast for microbes, a few easy strategies would make you a better host! Stop feeding “bad bugs” with as many refined carbs (sugars and flours), enjoy some sauerkraut with each meal (great selection at The Store, run by Nu-Beginning Farm) and toss a high-quality probiotic down your gullet once or twice a day. It could make a huge difference inside and out!
- For decades, researchers have known of the connection between the brain and the gut. Anxiety often causes nausea and diarrhea, and depression can change appetite. The connection may have been established, but scientists thought communication was one way: it traveled from the brain to the gut, and not the other way around. This communication process is more like a multi-lane superhighway than a one-way street.
- “The gut is really your second brain. There are more neurons in the GI tract than anywhere else except the brain.” -James Greenblatt, Boston-area psychiatrist.
- One 2011 study out of McMaster University compared the behaviors of normal eight-week-old mice and mice whose guts were stripped of microbes. Bacteria-free mice exhibited higher levels of risk-taking, and neurochemical analysis revealed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and altered levels of the brain chemical BDNF, which has been implicated in human anxiety and depression.
- “This work showed us that anxiety was normal, and that the gut-brain axis was involved in that,” Jane Foster, the study’s lead author, said. “Everybody knew that stress and anxiety could lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, but we looked at it from the bottom up and showed that the gut could communicate with the brain. It was the first demonstration that the gut itself could influence brain development.”
Image by skeeze @ pixabay.com/en/bacteria-electron-microscope-811861/