Have you ever heard of your Second Brain, or that it resides in your digestive system? Did you know that anxiety and depression can be affected by your gut microbiome and your diet?
Most of us are already familiar with the effects an unhealthy digestive system can have on overall health, but many have still never heard of the gut — brain connection.
We’re beyond fascinated to learn that some of the mental health issues (anxiety, depression, etc) can be addressed through our 2nd brain: OUR GUT!
It’s all about communication
The extensive network of communication between our gut and brain is transmitted via the nervous system, various hormones and the immune system. Also referred to as the Enteric Nervous System, the main highway of communication occurs along the vagus nerve, a direct connection between the microbiome and the brain by engaging neurotransmitters. The gut microbiome, or bacterial makeup of our intestines, interacts with the immune system and has the ability to release inflammatory cells, stress steroids and initiate a complete body stress response. Therefore, it can be easily be seen how the optimal balance of gut flora can help turn off the hormones that cause long-term effects on the body.
Two way street
However, the information of the gut-brain connection appears to flow in both directions. The brain has also been shown to affect the gastrointestinal and immune systems in a way that helps shape the gut’s microbiome. And as we’ve all experienced at one point or another, emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness or joy can trigger symptoms in the gut.
Scientists have identified specific strains of bacteria, or probiotics, that reside in our gut but directly affect the brain and/or human behavior. These influential organisms, referred to as psychobiotics, have even in some cases been shown to be more effective than traditional Western medications for treating anxiety and depression. As Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterolgy, Dr. Jay Pasricha says: “… In a way, gastroenterologists are like counselors looking for ways to soothe the second brain”!
Deans, Emily. 2014. Psychology Today. The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness and Disease.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease
Harvard Health Publishing. The Gut-Brain Connection. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Gut-Brain Connection.https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
Schmidt, Charles. 2015. Scientific American. Mental Health May Depend On Creatures In The Gut. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-health-may-depend-on-creatures-in-the-gut/
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