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That Gut Feel – The link between gut health and mood

October 8, 2019

 

We’ve seen that many medical experts call the enteric nervous system “the second brain” – and it’s remarkable that the gut houses some 200 million neurons, similar to the cortex of a dog. However, Dr Michel Neunlist, from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, states that from an evolutionary perspective, the gut is the first brain. He points
out that primitive creatures, like jellyfish, don’t have brains. They do, however, have enteric nervous systems.

 

Is your gut feeling grumbly?

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The brain in the head doesn’t always initiate “dialogue” with the brain in the gut. The gut transmits signals via proteins, hormone, neurotransmitters, etc, via the vagus nerve. Here
are some interesting findings from recent research into the link between gut health and anxiety / depression:

 

1. 95% of serotonin (which regulates mood) is produced in the gut;

 

2. The Flemish Gut Flora Project revealed that two types of bacteria —from the genera Coprococcus and Dialister — were absent from the guts of people diagnosed
with depression

 

3. Dr. Steven Collins, a gastroenterologist and researcher at McMaster University in Canada, oversaw experiments with mice. Whatever one feels about such experiments, it’s noteworthy that microbes from a calm breed of mice were put into an aggressive species of mice – and the aggressive mice calmed down. Similarly, when microbes from aggressive mice were put into calm mice, they became aggressive. (1)

 

An increasing body of evidence points to a connection between the gut and mental-emotional state of being. This makes further sense given that the symptoms of depression
and anxiety are both physical and mental-emotional, and that many of the physical symptoms relate to the gut:

 

 The loss of or increase in appetite,

 

 Leaky gut,

 

 Chronic inflammation (IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is frequently treated with anti-depressants),

 

 The weakening of the immune system, and

 

 The negative influence on the stress response.

 

Book an appointment today if you're feeling extra-stressed or noticing these symptoms.

 

There is no simple answer about whether depression and anxiety originate in the upper or lower brain. Dr. Collins has even referred to gut microbes as the third brain! This area of
research is opening up new means of treating mood disorders. Perhaps the relationship between the brain, the enteric nervous system and the gut microbes is pushing us pay closer attention to the “communication” between these parts; to stop looking at them in isolation; and to view the body and its treatment more holistically.

 

(1. As discussed by Dr. Collins in the Netflix documentary, The Gut: Our Second Brain.)

 

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