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Brain Gut Connection

We are more bacteria than we are human. Research has suggested that the bacteria living in our digestive tract play a significant role in our overall health.

Here are some of the physical and mental health conditions that have been linked to imbalanced in gut flora :

  • Depression – More than a third of depression sufferers have “leaky gut”, or permeability of the gut lining that allows bacterium to seep out into the bloodstream.
  • Anxiety – Prebiotic can have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. Consuming beneficial bacteria can also positively changes the way the brain responds to the environment.
  • Schizophrenia – Studies in mice have linked a lack of normal gut bacteria with changes in brain development, but the genetics of the disorder are complex and not fully understood.
  • Autism – Autism often co-occurs with gastrointestinal issues like leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Parkinson’s Disease – People suffering from this disease have different gut bacteria than healthy people.
  • Obesity & Diabetes – A number of studies have linked instability in the gut microbiome to obesity and obesity-related health problems.
  • Crohn’s disease – Abnormally high levels of certain bacteria strains may be present when Crohn’s disease develops, possibly triggering an atypical immune response.
  • Colon Cancer – Sugar loving microbes in the gut along with the carbs that feed them can fuel colon cancer. High carb-diets may even by contributing to the rise of colon cancer.
  • Ulcerative Colitis – Imbalanced in gut flora may be a main factor in both the onset and continuing symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – Studies have found a link between low levels of certain good gut bacteria, high levels of unhealthy Prevotella capri bacteria, and autoimmune joint disease.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – There is a definitive link between IBS and an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines.

21 replies »

    • A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.

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      • Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation, or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That doesn’t mean, however, that functional gastrointestinal conditions are imagined or “all in your head.” Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract.

        In addition, many people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.

        Based on these observations, you might expect that at least some patients with functional GI conditions might improve with therapy to reduce stress or treat anxiety or depression. Multiple studies have found that psychologically based approaches lead to greater improvement in digestive symptoms compared with only conventional medical treatment.

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    • Yes tony. If you’ve ever “gone with your gut” to make a decision or felt “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.

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    • You are most welcome Georganna. I am glad you liked this post. This new understanding of the ENS (enteric nervous system) CNS (central nervous system) connection helps explain the effectiveness of IBS and bowel-disorder treatments such as antidepressants and mind-body therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medical hypnotherapy. “Our two brains ‘talk’ to each other, so therapies that help one may help the other. In a way, gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in digestive conditions) are like counselors looking for ways to soothe the second brain.
      Gastroenterologists may prescribe certain antidepressants for IBS, for example not because they think the problem is all in a patient’s head, but because these medications calm symptoms in some cases by acting on nerve cells in the gut. Psychological interventions like CBT may also help to improve communications” between the big brain and the brain in our gut.

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