Our incredible minds are what differentiate us from other creature. We have the unique abilities to reason, think abstract thoughts, and experience deep emotion, yet emerging research is finding that our gut microbes are the invisible puppeteer of our mental well-being.
The Microbiome and Our Emotions
Microorganisms in our gut secrete all sorts of chemicals needed for a healthy mind and body, and new studies show that the gut microbiome actively works with our neural pathways and our brains’ signaling systems.
This is why some scientists refer to the gut as the “second brain.”
Microbes have even been implicated in specific mental health conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Schizophrenia, and Bipolar Disorder. Traditionally, treatment of mental health uses pharmaceutical medications, hoping to target chemical imbalances of the brain, now it appears we may have been looking at the wrong brain.
Did you know that 90% of serotonin (the hormone that makes us feel good) is produced not in the brain, but in the microbiome??
So how does this happen?
Do you have leaky gut?
Scientists have found that when there is a change in the composition of the gut microbiome, it can cause problems such as leaky gut. Leaky gut is when the cells lining your gut aren’t stuck together as tightly as they could be, allowing proteins, viruses, bacteria, and more to leak out of the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream.
A leaky gut can cause the enteric nervous system (a massive mesh-like network of neurons embedded in the wall of your gastrointestinal tract) and central nervous system to have a dysfunctional conversation. As you can imagine, these miscommunications can contribute to poor cognitive function and improper emotional response.
Is your gut microbiome causing chronic inflammation?
Another way gut microbes can influence anxiety and depression is by causing chronic inflammation, which is promoted by harmful toxins produced in the gut. This occurs when these microbes outcompete the beneficial bugs in the gut.
When these harmful gut inhabitants take over and cause inflammation, it can activate the vagus nerve (connecting the gut and the brain) leading to neuropsychological symptoms. These are only a couple of ways your microbiome may be influencing your mental health… and I could go on and on about how it effects your physical health.
This “second brain” is amazingly powerful, and most people are entirely clueless about it, but that doesn’t have to be you!