If you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach prior to giving a speech, you know that they are not the product of a missing monarch. However, this typical occurrence—in which your gut appears to mimic the fear in your brain—is an everyday illustration of interesting new study into the interconnected worlds inside of us.
While there aren’t any butterflies in your stomach, there are small creatures inside that are conversing with your brain about the stress you’re under. Numerous recent research suggest that these species and their environment may possess much greater power than previously thought. Many of the tens of trillions of organisms that make up your gastrointestinal tract, or gut, can support healthy digestion. However, some of them are not really helpful: They cause chaos when they seize control. That could result in food poisoning or more bathroom visits than you’d like, but other situations could be more serious. These obnoxious bugs may be communicating with the brain in ways that contribute to mental illnesses like anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease.
So, is the secret to a healthy brain your gut? What you need to know about the gut-brain link is provided below.
What does “gut microbiome” mean?
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego have discovered new aspects of the worlds inside of us with the assistance of regular people. More than 10,000 people from all across the world sent their feces to the American Gut Project (yep). Researchers studied it to learn more about the interactions between the microorganisms that live inside of us—our microbiomes—and illnesses.
You might recall the term “biome” from biology class; it refers to an environment, such as a desert or grassland, that is identified by the local flora. Our bodies are home to trillions of tiny creatures, including viruses, fungus, bacteria, and other microorganisms that live on and inside us. Microbes congregate in these environments on the skin, within the nose, and in the digestive tract of people (a.k.a. the gut). The cast of bacteria in the gut may now be “fingerprinted” by sequencing DNA, according to Ami Bhatt, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford University.
Since the day you were born, your microbiome has been changing and expanding with you. Your mom delivered a variety of microbes to you as you travelled through the birth canal, filling your stomach. Your microbiome was subsequently altered by skin-to-skin contact, first foods, illnesses (and medications), and all those germy toys. Since childhood, every new encounter introduces new characters, casts long-term recurrent parts, and gets rid of old favourites. Your gut’s universe is continuously changing.
Research on both animals and people has shown that environmental factors such persistent stress, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, disinfectants, and ultrafine particles in contaminated air can affect the gut microbiome. According to Dr. Bhatt, you can acquire new gut bacteria through your pet or a terrible diet. In the end, your body is home to microbial worlds that are completely unique to you.
Foods are processed by beneficial gut microbes into nutrients that are used by human bodies. They produce vitamins, inhibit viruses, aid in immune system development, and more.
How the gut talks to the brain?
You probably lost your appetite in the past as a result of stress, despair, or perhaps falling in love. Perhaps you “went with your gut” or “made a gut choice.” These common phrases and experiences help us understand why some experts are now referring to the gut as our “second brain” and suggesting that bacteria may be acting as our brains’ “master puppeteers.”
Although the interaction between the gut microbiome and the brain is still unclear to scientists, it does appear to be an intriguing two-way relationship. According to a number of theories, the gut creates chemicals that communicate with the brain either through the bloodstream or the enteric nervous system. For instance, certain gut bacteria can recognize and stimulate the creation of serotonin, which is linked to emotions of well-being. In actuality, the gut is where 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced. A neurotransmitter that can reduce anxiety is actually present in Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a different type of bacterium frequently discovered in the human stomach. Other microorganisms may affect how we behave in social situations, how we interact with others, and how we handle stress.
In order to comprehend how the microbiome can impact the brain as we age, researcher Laura Cox, Ph.D., a Harvard assistant professor, claims that there are “two-way streets of feedback loops” between the gut and the brain.
What occurs in the brain when stomach bugs become problematic?
Unhelpful animals will occasionally seize control of the intestines. This overpopulation can result in gut dysbiosis, a harmful imbalance that affects the brain’s daily operations and seems to produce static in the body’s communication channels.According to Smita Patel, D.O., a neurologist and sleep specialist at the iNeuro Institute, transferring the gut bacteria of an animal with a mood problem into a healthy animal caused the previously healthy animal to exhibit depressive symptoms. Additional studies are looking into the connections between the gut microbiome and illnesses like ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, and stress.
The Alzheimer Gut Microbiome Project is now conducting fascinating research in association with 10 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers and three significant dietary and lifestyle clinical trials. To better understand how the gut microbiota changes as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, researchers are analyzing at-home fecal and blood collection kits from more than 3,000 racially diverse participants. The initiative is also gathering new information on the gut-brain axis of communication and investigating the effects of lifestyle and diet on cognitive outcomes connected to Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers might be able to slow down or stop the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which can start in people as early as their 50s, if they can pinpoint the particular mechanisms and environmental elements that support these connections. The gut contains a wealth of knowledge, and we are always learning from it.
How to improve your gut microbiome?
The microbiota in your body may be changeable, according to Dr. Patel. Modifying your microbiome may help prevent or treat disorders of the brain or mental health issues.
Be mindful of what you eat
Diet is the easiest area for intervention, according to Dr. Patel. “It has been demonstrated that a diet high in vegetables, unsaturated fats, and vegetable oils and low in red and processed meat increases gut bacteria diversity and decreases physiological changes like chronic inflammation.”
For instance, the UC-San Diego study found that those with more diversified gut microbiomes than those who ingested 10 or fewer types of plant meals each week were those who consumed more than 30 different plant foods each week. Even though it can seem like a bold request to consume 30 different plant meals each week, any improvement helps. Just a reminder: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices are examples of plant foods, which are everything other than meat and animal products. At least 10 plant foods could be provided in one meal by a multigrain sandwich with hummus (fiber-rich garbanzo beans, olive oil, and seed-based tahini), tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, sprouts, and red peppers. You might discover that you try new meals or ones you’ve forgotten to try if
The fibre in the grains, beans, and vegetables in your meal can broaden the range of bacterial colonies. In essence, fibre, according to Cox, can support a healthy microbiome by feeding beneficial microorganisms. Beans, whole-grain cereals, broccoli, cauliflower, and even raspberries are full of fibre. (However, Cox warns that going too soon to a high-fiber diet can result in painful gas.) You might earn bonus stomach points if you top your sandwich with sauerkraut, tempeh, or fermented tofu. According to Cox, fermented meals can “seed” beneficial bacteria.
Treat your body kindly
Studies indicate that an unbalanced gut microbiota is related to stress, irregular sleep patterns, and inactivity. According to Dr. Patel, increasing your levels of calm, sleep, and exercise can result in a more varied gut microbiome. According to Cox, exercise increases blood flow, which stimulates the neurological system and gut, leading to a healthy gut.
Dr. Patel advises trying yoga or meditation to reduce stress and getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. She advises concentrating for a week on drinking adequate water (which aids in moving food through the intestines) and going for a 30-minute walk at lunch or after work. She continues, “Living a healthy lifestyle takes work.
Be cautious with -biotics
After taking a course of antibiotics or after contracting a bacterial infection, probiotic supplements can help increase the good bacteria in your body. The bacteria you consume, however, disappear after you stop taking your daily amount, according to Cox. Depending on a person’s level of immune system inflammation and particular genetic make-up, some probiotic supplements may assist some individuals while making others feel worse, she says, adding that the FDA doesn’t control the majority of probiotics present in yogurt and other over-the-counter goods. She advises, “Before you pay for a probiotic, examine what it does,” which can entail reviewing studies from the manufacturer or other medical studies.Although there is a lot of promise, it is still early on and we are attempting to grasp this extremely complex web of interactions. There are no easy solutions, just like everything else in life.
Signs of digestive problems
Digestional symptoms like gas and bloating might occur in people who are depressed or anxious. According to Smita Patel, D.O., “These cognitive and digestive symptoms are frequently believed to be independent of one another, forgetting the critical relationship between the gut and the brain.” Keep an eye out for these signs and experiment with food and lifestyle changes. Consult your doctor if those measures don’t work.
- Gas and bloating
- Brain fog or headaches
- Sugar cravings
- Muscle aches and pains
- Weight gain