Does the Health of Your Gut Affect the Function of Your Brain? If you check out the latest natural health and self-help books and blogs, you’ll find lots of people claiming to heal the mind by repairing the gut. This claim sounds incredible, but is there something behind it? Research on the bacteria that lives in our bodies has increased of late and we’ve learned how it plays an essential role in digestion. For example, without bacteria, we can’t break down the fiber we eat. While most of this research has been focused on how gut bacteria might affect what goes wrong in the gut and how that affects things such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or obesity, one of the up and coming areas of research is now focusing on how our gut health affects our brain health. Research is finding that bacteria in the gut can and does communicate with the brain to determine mood and our basic sense of who we are. The next time you eat certain foods such as sugar and processed chemicals, if you’re paying attention, you may notice your mood change quite dramatically. There are three basic components to the gut/brain research:
- Bacteria. Bacteria that live in our gut are necessary building blocks in the production of neurochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. In fact, although serotonin is commonly known as a brain neurotransmitter, it is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
- Neurochemicals. The impact on these neurochemicals affect the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- Inflammation. The bacteria in our gut plays a vital role in regulating our immune system and inflammatory response. Inflammation is now widely known to be one underlying cause of depression and is thought to be the culprit in many cases of autism and a significant number of other autoimmune and neurological disorders.