Research into the connection between gut health and the brain has exploded in recent years. Although 100 years ago, Russian immunologist Ellie Metchnikoff put forth the idea that keeping the gut environment healthy could play a part in warding off senility, the push to examine the idea has grown slowly. Research is now expanding rapidly to focus on the role of bacteria in our digestive tract and how what we consume can alter that environment and affect not just digestion and metabolism but brain function as well. Scientists have even begun to call the gut’s nervous system our “second brain”.
We know that intestinal microbes interact with the immune system, which connects to the brain. The gut also releases hormones and neuroactive compounds that travel throughout our blood stream. In fact, our digestive tract forms about 70% of our immune system and contains more neurons than the entire spinal cord!
Here are some of the mental health conditions that scientists are discovering have connections to gut health. . .
Researchers are focusing on how what’s going on with our gut health may play a role in depression and anxiety. More than ⅓ of people who suffer from depression are also suffering from “leaky gut” where bacteria seeps into the bloodstream due to the permeability of the gut lining. Studies are also showing that prebiotics can have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
Research indicates that as many as 9 out of 10 people who are autistic also suffer from “leaky gut” or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and there is growing evidence that intestinal microbes exacerbate and may even cause some of the symptoms of austism.
Scientists have found that there is a link between a family of bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae and the severity of symptoms in Parkinson’s patients. Those patients with high levels of the bacteria also had more difficulty with motor functions such as walking and balance.
For further reading on the connection between gut health and a healthy mind, we’ve provided links to a few more in-depth articles below. . .