Tuesday 4 August 2020

The Gut/Brain Axis

Dear Rob,

It’s hard to top a film that appears to be a cult classic, but we shall give it a good go. So, from Dinner with Andre to just…dinner?

You may be wondering if anything inspired this blog post. Indeed, it did. It was inspired, like most things in my life, by stress.

I have been rather stressed for two weeks or so. I practiced my meditation and mindfulness, I engaged in pleasant activities to keep my mood up and I even spoke to my therapist. My mind was clearer, I felt calmer and more optimistic.

My brain was chill. It was having a grand old time, enjoying all the positivity I had been obsessively feeding it. My stomach on the other hand, was less pleased.

I would wake up every morning (at a reasonable time, thanks brain), and I would instantly feel sick. My stomach would hurt. I would just feel…ugh. And so, like I tend to do, I hopped onto Google and asked why. And here I discovered something I hadn’t known – there is a link between your gut and your brain.

I don’t know why this was so revelatory – in fact, one of the things I had mercilessly drilled into me by a former social worker was how important food was to your mood. But I had figured it was mostly vitamin related. You eat some salad and some fish, and your body has the energy it needs to function, lessening the physical effects of depression. Simple.

I found out that the organisms present in your stomach could have a direct impact on your brain. This is because there’s a link between your gut and your brain called the gut-brain axis.
Now, I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know the ins and outs. But simply put, your stomach can produce all sorts of hormones including serotonin (we’re big fans of that one) and melatonin which helps you sleep. Your gut flora, the microorganisms that live in your digestive system, can release molecules that affect the vagus nerve which tells your brain about what’s happening in your stomach. So, there’s a connection between the two of them. It stands to reason that whatever is happening in your stomach can then affect your brain.

dissection of brain showing neurons

In fact, probiotics are meant to be good for people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

I mean, it’s a pretty complicated area of study, one which I have no idea about as I’m not that smart, but it’s super interesting to read up on!

Have you ever found that your stomach is affected by your mood, or potentially the other way around?

I am very tempted to give probiotics a go to see if anything happens! It’s worth noting that the research is in its infancy and most of it comes from animal studies. But I do like the idea that mental health isn’t just confined to the brain.

Do you think a more holistic approach would be beneficial in terms of mental health treatment? It would be super interesting to hear your thoughts!

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