You know there’s a strong tie between your head and your belly, right? I like to call it the Gut Brain Connection. Consider this:
- When you see a photo of your favorite food, you start to feel hungry
- When you feel anxious, you get a stomach ache
- When you’re sad, you lose your appetite
Part of the reason for this link is the longest nerve in the body. It’s called the vagus nerve. It runs from the bottom of the brain to the lowest part of the intestines. Scientists think it carries messages back and forth. Once they thought those messages were just about food.
Now they’re starting to think the bacteria in our belly can control our moods and our moods can control the bacteria.
A new study by a Belgian microbiologist showed that the bacteria in our gut cab make certain neurotransmitters and send them to our brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. They are what make us feel good.
Besides finding out that the bugs in our gut can send these messages, they also learned that people who suffer from depression are low on two types of bacteria.
All of the bacteria that we’re talking about are what we refer to as our “microbiome”. The “microbiome” is a mix of bacteria and other things found in our gut. They’ve already been shown to have an impact on many elements of our health. But this is one of the first times that scientists have found a link between gut bacteria and how we feel in our heads.
It’s not yet clear whether the lack of those two bacteria — “Coprococcus” and “Dialister” — is a cause of depression. It could be that depression causes a lack of the bacteria! But the link is clear, and for scientists it opens a new idea to think about and test. First they need to learn much more about the bacteria themselves.
Once they do that, they hope to be able to use what they learn as a new form of medicine. One day doctors might be able to prescribe bacteria to us as a way to cure mood issues.
In the meantime, other scientists are trying to figure out how what goes on in our minds has such a strong effect on how our bellies work. Many people find that when they’re angry or sad or nervous, it upsets their stomach. Other people lose their appetite or may get physically sick.
People who have digestive system diseases find that their symptoms are worse when they are stressed. Now we are learning that stress reduction techniques can improve these symptoms.
We are still very far away from figuring out whether it is our gut that controls our brain or our brain that controls our gut. It may be a little bit of both. What is clear is that taking care of both our minds and our bodies is a good way to ensure that both are as healthy as can be.
Do you get a feeling in the pit of your tummy when you're feeling anxious or depressed?
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All my love,