Ever had a ‘gut feeling?’
That pit at the bottom of your stomach, where you just know something isn’t right, even before your brain has figured out why.
This is what we call our intuition, or ‘listening to our gut.’
We have always intuitively known that our gut is like our second brain and that is why sometimes we just “go with our gut.”
However, it’s not just a metaphor, there are hundreds of millions of neurons lining our digestive system, formally called the enteric nervous system (ENS). This enteric nervous system operates somewhat independently from the brain. It carries out the daily reflexes and senses needed to digest food and excrete waste. Although, this ‘second brain’ can’t solve a mathematical equation, it does however affect our overall emotional well being.
Just like the brain, the ENS creates neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers. One that you have probably heard of before is serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Anti-depressant SSRI drugs work to increase serotonin levels. However, we now know that 95% of serotonin is made by the enteric nervous system (i.e. the gut) and not the central nervous system (i.e. the brain.)
This means, we could completely change the way we look at depression. We often think of it as a “brain issue” when in fact it could be a “gut issue.”
Anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome knows that stress can be a huge symptom trigger. IBS has also been linked to serotonin levels. A 2010 article published by Scientific American on the Gut Brain Connection actually suggested that IBS may be a mental illness of the ENS. Gut issues are also a common complaint from those with autism; this is yet another gut-brain connection.
So, you may be wondering what this has to do with our bacteria friends who inhabit the gut?
Well it turns out that our microbiome actually communicates with our enteric nervous system; moreover they work together symbiotically. Particularly, our microbiome is involved in our stress response. More and more research is being conducted on the role of the microbiome relating to specific diseases.
Dr. Ruth Ann Luna from the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center is comparing the microbiome of children with autism to their non-affected siblings. Studies have shown inherent differences between the siblings, however further research is required.
So now you may be thinking this is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with ME?
There is still a lot we don’t know about the connection between the gut, the brain and our microbiome. However, I think we all can agree that a healthy microbiome leads to a healthy gut, which in turn leads to a healthy brain. We don’t need a scientist to tell us that a good diet is a key factor to a healthy microbiome and digestive system.
This means lots of water and fiber to feed the good bacteria and improve bowel movements. It means avoiding inflammatory foods, such as sugar and damaged fats.
It also means getting rid of candida overgrowth in the gut. If you are suffering from any mental health issues, candida may be a contributing factor.
Find out today if you have candida and what to do about it!
Hadhazy, Adam February 12, 2010, Think Twice: How the Gut’s Second Brain Influences Mood and Wellbeing, Scientific American
Luna, Ruth-Ann, PHD, February 6, 2015 A gut feeling: Unlocking the mysteries of autism