The Brain-Gut Connection

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"The primary seat of insanity generally is in the region of the stomach and intestines."
Philippe Pinel
1745-1826
Father of Modern Psychiatry

While the previous post listed some practical ways to help cope with our higher levels of anxiety, the following article by Dr. Joseph Mercola explains why digestive health is critical to recovery.

Most people fail to realize that your gut is quite literally your second brain, and actually has the ability to significantly influence your:

• Mind
• Mood
• Behavior

So while modern psychiatry still falsely claims that psychological problems such as depression are caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain, researchers keep finding that depression and a variety of behavioral problems actually appear to be linked to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut!

Germ-Free Mice Engage in High-Risk Behavior

In the featured study published last month in Neurogastroenterology & Motility, mice that lack gut bacteria were found to behave differently from normal mice, engaging in what would be referred to as "high-risk behavior." This altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain.

According to the authors, microbiota (your gut flora) may play a role in the communication between your gut and your brain, and:

"Acquisition of intestinal microbiota in the immediate postnatal period has a defining impact on the development and function of the gastrointestinal, immune, neuroendocrine and metabolic systems. For example, the presence of gut microbiota regulates the set point for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity."

The neurotransmitter serotonin activates your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis by stimulating certain serotonin receptors in your brain. Additionally, neurotransmitters like serotonin can also be found in your gut. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain!

So it actually makes perfect sense to nourish your gut flora for optimal serotonin function as it can have a profound impact on your mood, psychological health, and behavior.

. . .

The Gut-Brain Connection

When you consider the fact that the gut-brain connection is recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine, and that there's no shortage of evidence of gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases, it's easy to see how the balance of gut bacteria can play a significant role in your psychology and behavior as well.

With this in mind, it should also be crystal clear that nourishing your gut flora is extremely important, from cradle to grave, because in a very real sense you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment.

Interestingly, these two organs are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. This is what connects your two brains together, and explains such phenomena as getting butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous, for example. (For an interesting and well-written layman's explanation of this connection, read through Sandra Blakeslee's 1996 New York Times article Complex and Hidden Brain in Gut Makes Stomachaches and Butterflies.)

Your gut and brain work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa.

As a result, it should be obvious that your diet is closely linked to your mental health. Furthermore, it requires almost no stretch of the imagination to see how lack of nutrition can have an adverse effect on your mood and subsequently your behavior.

The article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.