“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”Hippocrates
Have you ever felt nauseated before an important interview, experienced butterflies on meeting someone you love, or undergone a sharp intestinal pain during stressful situations?
Well, our gut wall has an intricate network of over 100 million neurons called ‘the second brain’ or the Eccentric Nervous System. The two brains present in our body communicate through the vagus nerve forming the Gut-Brain axis.
The vagus nerve forges a direct relation between our brain and gut. Hence disturbance caused in one ensures it in the other. When our brain is affected by emotions like anger, pain, or anxiety, it sends signals to the gut that show symptoms like intestinal pain, heartburn, or upset stomach.
Irritable gut causes anxiety.
We are aware that stress and anxiety trigger GI tract infections, but the possibility of gut inflammation-causing anxiety-related disorders is not an evident assertion. Research has proved that 80% – 90% of the nerve fibers in the Eccentric Nervous System advance from the gut to the brain.
A patient’s gut might not be the obvious place to probe for the treatment of depression, but that’s exactly what George Porter Phillips of Bethlem Royal Hospital did in the 20th century. Phillips observed a consistent complaint of constipation accompanied by “general clogging in the metabolic process” in his patients suffering from melancholia.
Ideally, depression would have been the cause of these symptoms, but Phillips attempted to approach it from the opposite end. He treated those patients on a low-fat diet and fermented milk called kefir which contains the “friendly” bacteria Lactobacillus to ease digestion.
The results obtained were striking. Most of the patients displayed positive growth with mental well-being and fewer GI tract infections.
So, watch out for your GI tract infections that occur without any specific physical cause. Its origin might be anxiety or stress-related.
It is the microscopic scavengers (bacteria) that cause havoc in our gut.
Bacteria constitute a significant portion of the human body; it outnumbers the human body cells by the ratio of 10 and 1. The complex neural system spread in our gut wall leverages the bacterial ecosystem for both physical and psychological well-being.
The imbalance in the ratio of the beneficial and disease-causing bacteria begets GI tract irritation which further affects the brain chemistry, behavioral phenomenon, emotional alterations, and pain perception.
Irritation in the GI tract sends signals to the brain that initiate mood change and cause anxiety. Memory and thinking ability is also supposed to be affected by digestive tract activity. Research in neuropsychology speculates that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can result from alterations in the gut microbiome.
The revelation regarding the link between the two brains of the human body has become a milestone in treating stress disorders. It has also explained the effectiveness of antidepressants and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in bowel disorder treatment.
Your gut has power over your physical as well as mental well-being.
A group of Chinese researchers in Chongqing injected the gut microbiota of the patients coping with depression into germ-free mice. They observed lethargy, fear, and lack of will as prominent symptoms in the mice. Further, when they placed the mouse in a cardboard box, it preferred staying in the corners, whereas in the “forced” swimming exercise, it displayed an early tendency to quit.
In a similar study that tested the efficacy of the “microbiome-gut-brain-axis” published in 2011, Bercik and his colleagues injected a ‘cocktail of antibiotics’ in a timid and shy strain of mice. They found that it changed the composition of their gut, and the mice became active and bold.
“The most remarkable feature of the experiment was that the animal exposed to the ‘depressed’ microbiome behaved depressed,” stated Julio Lucinio of New York Upstate Medical University.
The onus of a considerable portion of our mental well-being depends on the type of food we consume. Our diet decides the microbes which survive in our body and those which do not. The bacteria that triumphs sends signals to the brain telling us to devour the food they prefer.
While harmful bacteria cause anxiety, beneficial bacteria can cure it. Controlling the bacterial population of the GI tract can help us achieve a peaceful mind and a healthy body.
A healthy belly is a secret to a healing mind.
A study in Spain has proved that a person consuming a balanced Mediterranean diet is half as likely to be diagnosed with depression over four years. Mediterranean diet increases the diversity of the gut bacteria that prevents opportunistic bacteria from proliferating resulting in inflammation, also called dysbiosis.
High sugar, high fat, and highly processed food items have a damaging effect on neurons and should be replaced with collagen-boosting and high-fiber food products like bone broth, salmon, sprouts, and peas. Such alteration in food consumption would contribute to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Psychobiotic studies have proved that a specific lactobacillus strain improves stress resilience and anxiety. This study makes the use of probiotics and prebiotics mandatory in our diet. Probiotic gut bacterias produce hormones like serotonin and neurotransmitters like GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) that elevate our mood, suppressing anxiety or depression.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” – Ann Wigmore
Besides healthy food, our belly requires a “rest and digest” state for proper digestion. In a relaxed state, our stomach produces gastric juices that help in regulating food churning. This process assists our body in absorbing minerals, nutrients, and vitamins from the food we consume. Deep breathing before the main meals would be perfect for the cause.
Food has miraculous control over our bodies, so the next time you eat something, think twice.
Liked A Healthy Belly Is a Secret to a Healing Mind? Also read: The Food-Memory Link.
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