Basic Instinct || The Relation Between Gut and Mental Health

basic instinct

Disclaimer: I am not a health care provider, perhaps the only similarities are our white coats. I own a couple, probably more fashionable than the doctor’s.  I also have bad handwriting, that is where the likeness ends.  This article is meant to enlighten you on the relationship between the gut and the brain.  I have included a number of references at the end, for those that wish to explore it further.  Happy reading 🙂

Ok, so why is it that sudden emotional changes, both positive and negative effect your gut.  You hear good news and you feel butterflies, bad news and you have a sudden bout of diarrhea 🙁 It’s because they are directly related.  In the above examples, the brain triggers the gut, but it goes the other way as well, the health of your gut can also affect our brain, and therein lies the issue.

Imagine your gut as the Amazon forest, or Antartica, or even a wild mountain top in Switzerland, untouched by us humans’ dirty truth.  There is a natural balance in the gut, similar to that of Mother Earth.  Our gut is host to an ecosystem of microbes, mostly bacteria (good and bad).  These microbes are staggering in species and number.  With the average bowel containing over 10,000 species and around 100 trillion in number. Each of these has its own DNA code which then interacts with our human DNA.  It is in this interaction that we can recode our genetic expression, staving off hereditary diseases with healthy habits.

The hormones dopamine and serotonin are common to us, we hear them a lot.  These are chemicals, known as neurotransmitters that send signals to the brain.  Dopamine is a chemical messenger involved in reward, motivation, memory and attention.  Seratonine is another chemical that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, hence its nickname: the happy drug.  Did you know that these two chemicals are primarily produced in the gut?  That means that as long as your gut is fine, your release of these chemicals will be effective.  Any disruption in the balance of the gut will affect how happy and motivated you feel.

Imbalances in the gut are similar to imbalances in nature.  They are caused by toxins, processed foods, antibiotics and others that literally attack the digestive system.  So what does the body do when it comes under attack?  Why it releases a stress hormone to deal with it.   Cortisol, the most popular of stress hormones is released in the system causing inflammation.  Where this inflammation hits depends on your weak spot.  For some its acne, others its inflamed joints.  The stress hormone is also released into the gut causing an imbalance, which therefore affects our brain function, given that so many of the neurotransmitters are actually produced in the gut.  Feeling foggy, forgetful, grumpy and sad?  Could be your diet..seriously.

If the inflammation caused by the stress hormone lasts long, another issue occurs that many of us face today, the leaky gut..  When our gut is not functioning well, the lining is punctured, and a series of small holes appear.  This means that what is meant to remain within the gut from nutrients etc are leaked, disrupting the nervous communication with the brain.  A good example of this is a gut bacteria called LPS (lipopolysaccharide), when it migrates from the gut to the body’s circulation it becomes a potent toxin and has been implicated in a number of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Enough said, right?

Sooooo, what to do about it?  Read more is my recommendation.  Below are a number of books on the topic, happy book reading, podcasting, blog posting.. whatever floats your boat.


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