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The gut-brain connection


We all know what is feels to  “go with your gut” or feel “butterflies in your stomach”, or experience a gut-wrenching" feeling.  The reason these expressions are so common is because the brain has a direct effect on the stomach through a second brain, hidden in the walls of the digestive system, the enteric nervous system (ENS). Research on the Brain-Gut connection  is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way we think and feel.

 

The gut brain connection axis is bidirectional. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut: a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.

 

Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, explains that though it had been thought for a long time that emotional issues such as anxiety and stress were partly to blame for many digestive issues,including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), more recent findings showed that it could well be the other way around; gut irritation may signal the brain and cause irritation and mood changes.  

 

 

This new findings explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety.

 

This is particularly relevant as it could imply that that the 30 to 40 % of the population estimated to suffer from functional bowel problems at some point in their lives, could be potential susceptible to the mental health implications of the brain gut connection. This understanding may explain the effectiveness of mind-body therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medical hypnotherapy in treating IBS and bowel-disorders.

 

 

Preliminary research has found that gut microbes, collectively called the gut microbiome, can have a significant impact on mood and cognition, and even fight anxiety and depression.

 

The brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut's microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuro-active compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that act on the brain.

 

 

 

A recent paper published in the journal Trends in Neuroscience, by Oxford psychiatrists has been suggesting to the scientific community to look beyond just probiotics and to consider the wider potential role changing the gut microbiome to affect effect on mental health.

 

The new scientific term for these kinds of interventionsconnecting changes in gut microbiome and mental health witha new scientific term: “psychobiotics”.

 

Though we may have never heard this term before, we have probably been using psychobiotic in form of maintaining a diet that is low in saturated fats, exercising or eating some of the probiotic food such as yogurt and sauerkraut.

 

 

TAKEAWAY

 

Understanding  how the gut and brain interact

 allows us to see why we can feel nauseated before an exam or feel intestinal pain when we are under a lot of pressure and how we are not imagining these sensations  “in our head”.

 It highlights the importance of supporting   an healthy and friendly conversation between our brain and our brain in our gut by

 

• following a healthy diet rich in probiotics and low in fats and sugars

 

• keeping active

 

• learning how to better manage stress and anxiety through therapies such as meditation, mindfulnessand CBT, or hypnotherapy.

 

 

Sources

 

Gregoire, C. (2016, November 10). How 'Psychobiotics' Use Gut Bacteria To Treat Mental Illness. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gut-bacteria-mental-health_us_581770a7e4b064e1b4b3a842?utm_source=Thrive%2BGlobal%2BWebsite%2BSignup&utm_campaign=3ed6a43b63-

 

Romijn, A. R., & Rucklidge, J. J. (2015). Systematic review of evidence to support the theory of psychobiotics. Nutrition reviews73(10), 675-693.

 

Sarkar, A., Lehto, S. M., Harty, S., Dinan, T. G., Cryan, J. F., & Burnet, P. W. (2016). Psychobiotics and the manipulation of bacteria–gut–brain signals. Trends in neurosciences39(11), 763-781.

 

Zhou, L., & Foster, J. A. (2015). Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment11, 715.

 

 

 

 




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