What Does the Gut Have to Do with How We Feel?

What Does the Gut Have to Do with How We Feel?

You know the saying, “I feel it in my gut”? Well, turns out there might be more truth to that then you think. In fact, the more we learn about the human gut, or our gut microbiome, the more it’s clear that it really is our “second brain.”

Underlying the sensation of “butterflies” in the stomach, there is an overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our "second brain". This little brain can affect our mental state and play a key role in certain diseases throughout the body.

The gut is the home of the enteric nervous system which is made up of two thin layers with more than 100 million nerve cells in them that control blood flow and help the GI tract digest food. They also help us “feel” what’s happening inside the gut.

The types of bacteria found in the gut — “good bacteria” — play a role in how we feel specifically, when it comes to mood. Did you know that 95% of your happy neurotransmitter (serotonin) is produced in your gut? Because antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels, they can cause chemical changes in the mind and can often provoke GI issues such as Irritable bowel syndrome as a side effect.

A recent study illustrated how the gut and brain are connected through studying the effects of probiotics on patients with irritable bowel syndrome and depression. Researchers found that twice as many patients saw improvements from depression when they took a probiotic as compared to the other patients who took a placebo. Again, with an improvement of the gut, came an improvement of mental wellbeing. Patients in this study took the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 daily.

We don’t have all the answers to the gut-brain connection yet but one thing that we can assume is that our bodies and minds are so much more connected than what we think. It is important that we take care of our body as a whole and do things daily to nourish our gut and brain.

 

References:

1.       Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pinto-Sanchez M, August 2017

2.       Dr. Axe, The Gut-Brain Connection: What Remedies Can Both Heal & Improve It?

3.       Scientific American, Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being

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