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Gut health influences emotions, thinking

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Gem

This article makes some interesting points, although I winced when Gershon mentioned 'intestinal antidepressants.’

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/women_shealth/9197756/What-your-guts-telling-you-why-your-digestion-holds-the-key-to-your-health.html

 

What your gut’s telling you: why your digestion holds the key to your health

 

IBS? Bloating? Far from being isolated digestive disorders, these are now being linked with everything from osteoporosis to depression.

By Anna Moore

11:00AM BST 15 Apr 2012

 

Catherine Taylor knows all is not well inside her stomach, that something is not quite right but, like many women, she has learnt to live with it. Bouts of bloating, diarrhoea and discomfort have sent her to the GP more than once, but when tests ruled out the serious stuff (cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease) Taylor was left with nebulous explanations and trial-and-error solutions. (Stress? Food intolerance? Her monthly cycle?)

 

'The symptoms have come and gone for three years now,’ says Taylor, 42, a full-time mother of three. 'It’s wearying, it’s worrying, but when I mention it to friends it’s amazing how many turn out to have something similar. It almost seems normal! But it can’t be healthy.’

 

For years the gut – or to be more precise, our system of digestive organs – has been the Cinderella of medical science. While the brain provides an endless focus for research, fascination and wonder, the gastrointestinal tract has been rather neglected, dismissed as little more than a simple, subordinate system of plumbing.

 

We all know it’s important to protect our heads, we fully comprehend the horror of brain injury, we know how to stay heart-healthy – but who gives much thought to the smooth inner workings of our intestines?

 

The fact that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a kind of umbrella term for diarrhoea, discomfort, cramping, constipation, bloating and pain, affects up to one in five people in Britain, and twice as many women as men, doesn’t seem to have caused undue concern to anyone except the sufferers. If you’re feeling a bit ropey down there, lie down or reach for a Rennie. It’s nothing serious.

 

Now, it seems, this attitude could finally be about to change – and we could be on the cusp of some real answers and more effective lines of treatment. The gastrointestinal system is having its turn in the sun as research reveals that this is no simple plumbing job, but a highly sophisticated, finely tuned system of intelligence.

 

A healthy digestive system could be more important than we’ve been led to believe, the key to wellbeing, or, as Lisa Blair, a nutritionist at the Food Doctor, a London-based nutritional consultancy, puts it, the 'root of health’ . 'More and more,’ says Blair, 'people are beginning to realise that if the gut isn’t working well, nothing’s going to be working well.’

 

Much of the credit for this lies with one man, Michael Gershon, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University in New York. The author of a groundbreaking book, The Second Brain, Gershon describes functional bowel disease using the same term Winston Churchill once used for the Soviet Union: 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’ .

 

According to Gershon, the gastrointestinal tract qualifies as a 'second brain’ because it is an autonomous nervous system, the only part of the body that can function on its own.

 

'When I was at medical school I was taught erroneously that the brain controlled everything – including the gut,’ he says. 'In fact, if you cut the vagus nerve – the major nerve between the brain and the gut – the gut would soldier on. We now know it can work completely independently of the brain and spinal cord. While the “first brain” gets on with religion, philosophy and poetry, the “second brain” deals with the messy business of digestion.’

 

Part library, part laboratory, our 'second brain’ assesses what we throw at it and decides on the appropriate course of action (processing, mixing, measuring salt, absorbing nutrients, ejecting last night’s takeaway…). Gershon estimates that, incredibly, the system is home to up to 100 million neurons – as many as the spinal cord – and about 40 neurotransmitters – as many as we have in the brain.

 

Although we’ve all been aware of the effect our brain can have on our digestive system (there’s nothing like a deadline or presentation to trigger a trip to the bathroom), few understand the power our gut is having over our brain and its likely connection to mental health and general wellbeing.

 

'About 90 to 95 per cent of the vagus fibres are carrying signals from the gut to the brain – not the other way round,’ says Gershon. 'The messages that come to consciousness are usually the ones we don’t want to hear. Pain, discomfort, nausea. It could be saying, “Don’t eat in that restaurant again!” But most of the messages sent are still a mystery. We don’t know what most of them do,’ Gershon continues, 'but some of it is very, very good and very unexpected.’

 

Diseases as wide-ranging as Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and autism seem to display early symptoms in the gut. It has been found that mimicking signals from the gut to the brain by stimulating the vagus nerve can improve learning and memory, and regulate mood. It’s been used as a treatment for epilepsy and depression, and could help conditions such as Alzheimer’s, migraine and tinnitus.

 

A possible explanation is the fact that the gut is home to some of our key chemicals – 90 to 95 per cent of our serotonin lies in the gut. (The brain has just two to three per cent.) 'Serotonin is the chemical that’s involved with happiness, sex, sleeping, feeding – just about everything that makes life worthwhile,’ says Gershon. 'So if something in your gut is troubling you, you have to wonder what else it’s doing.’ Could it be making you depressed? Forgetful? Lose sleep?

 

Evidence suggests that IBS originates from a change in the serotonin system. In a healthy person, serotonin in the gut is whisked out of the bowel by a serotonin transporter found in the cells that line the gut wall. In cases of IBS, this may not be happening and the sufferer ends up with too much serotonin swirling round the system, causing diarrhoea, then overwhelming the receptors, shutting them down and leading to constipation. Gershon believes the most effective line of treatment for IBS are serotonin-based drugs – 'intestinal antidepressants’ .

 

This line of enquiry could also give answers to the many people who suffer both IBS and mood disorders. Angela Wilson is one of them. Last year Wilson suffered a mental breakdown and is now on long-term sick leave with depression.

 

'In the year leading up to it I was constantly at the doctor’s with IBS issues, getting tested for this and that,’ she says. 'Nothing was ever diagnosed and it never went away. Now I have depression and I’ve often wondered if there’s a link. My dips are always preceded by a bad bout of IBS. I’m left wondering which end of the system is causing the problem.’

 

Perhaps even more unexpected is the growing body of research suggesting that the state of our guts – or, to be more precise, the ecosystem that thrives inside – can explain why some of us eat more than others and are more likely to pile on the pounds. Andrew Gewirtz, a professor of pathology at Emory University in Atlanta, is a leader in this area.

 

'It’s a relatively new field, but one that’s creating a lot of interest,’ he says. 'I think there’s been an increasing belief that the epidemic of obesity is not as simple as the fact that we now have access to unlimited food. We’re looking for reasons as to why people are eating more, and why it has happened so quickly.’

 

One fascinating possibility is that it’s down to a long-term shift in the dominant species of micro-organisms inside our gut. A baby in the womb is clean and sterile, but from birth onwards the intestines become home to a universe of micro-organisms – so-called 'gut microbiota’ .Your own particular balance of 100 trillion gut microbiota will determine your 'enterotype’ .

 

We are walking bacterial colonies with more microbial genes than human ones, and when it works well it can be a mutually beneficial relationship: you provide a warm home and regular meals, gut microbiota help digest food, make vitamins and protect the body from invading pathogens. However, they also seem to influence weight. One explanation is that an over-flourishing of one type will trigger an inflammatory state and make cells less responsive to insulin and leptin, key hormones in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, carbohydrate and fat metabolism. As a result, we want to eat more.

 

We acquire our enterotype in various ways: coming down the birth canal in a vaginal delivery; early handling; our diet; the environment. There’s evidence that the balance of bacteria has undergone a general shift for a variety of reasons, including antibiotic use, better hygiene and cleanliness, and the rise in caesarean sections.

 

'We do know, for example, that bacteria that has existed in humans for thousands of years now seems to have vanished in Western circles,’ says Gewirtz. 'Various factors have interrupted what used to be a normal inheritance for generations.’

 

The focus now is on developing ways to manipulate our ecosystems so that the 'low-weight’ microbes dominate. (Probiotic drinks and yogurts may put healthy live bacteria into your system, but changing your enterotype altogether is a more complex question.) Scientists are also exploring the possibility that our microbiota may play a part in a variety of conditions including IBS, autism and sepsis (a potentially deadly inflammatory state throughout the whole body).

 

Exciting times for gastroenterologists – but what can the rest of us do right now with all this information? As yet the practical implications are limited; we can’t tinker with our enterotypes or simply adjust the serotonin levels swirling in our stomachs. But we can treat our guts with the kind of reverence and respect we tend to afford other parts of our bodies.

 

At present, the thought we give to our eating habits tends to be the effect they have on weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol… But what about the effect on the gut itself? Can it really be good to starve it for a week then feed it nothing but cabbage soup? What does your gut instinct tell you?

 

'Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet,’ advises Gershon. 'Green vegetables and lots of good fibre are positives.’ More than ever, we should listen to our guts. If something disagrees with it, heed the message. Your whole wellbeing may depend on it.....

 

 

The article also goes onto list 'Ten tips for a healthy digestion.'

Edited by Altostrata
removed extra line breaks

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Jemima

Intestinal antidepressants??? Eeeeeeeeewwwww.

 

Gluten intolerance is frequently misdiagnosed as IBS. I supposedly suffered with it for years before reading a book called We Don't Die, We Kill Ourselves by Dr. Roger L. De Haan. When I read his description of intolerance to wheat, I thought, "Bingo!" and experimented by cutting out all foods containing wheat. Within three days, my symptoms were gone.

 

While I agree that a healthy digestive system and good food are essential to physical and mental health, the author of this article seems to be looking for a zebra in the horse paddock.

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alexjuice

I've thought of emailing Dr. Gershon. I read the 1st half of his book before getting swept up in other stuff.

 

I realize tht he wrote it, but in the book Gershon comes across, as kind, humble, honest and funny.

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bubbles

When I was depressed, my doctor did a blood test for helicobacter pylori (the bug that gives you stomach ulcers). Turns out, I had this infection. When I did some googling, depression was a symptom. Doc didn't really expect it to come up positive (and it was very positive, positive was like over 9, and my result was 27 - something like that, don't quote these figures, it is all lost in the mists of time!) he was just being thorough. I hadn't complained about any other symptoms of it, just the depression. I did, however, have nausea after eating, but it had become such a normal part of my life I just considered it to be normal.

 

Bubbles

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Altostrata

I understand helicobacter pylori is quite common. Did he treat it?

 

After suffering from it for decades, I fixed my own IBS with daily Metamucil and by drinking large amounts of water in the morning to get things started.

 

I may have accidentally recolonized with good bacteria from yogurt -- I didn't know about probiotics back then.

 

No "intestinal antidepressants" needed -- as usual, throw some chemicals at the problem instead of simple habit changes.

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bubbles

Yes he did, though it didn't help my mood, unfortunately. It did very much improve my quality of life (treating the bug, that is), though for the first three months I didn't think so, as I had, err, no healthy bacteria for that time. :)

 

If I got the bug - and those symptoms - again I'd certainly treat it again. :)

 

B

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Nadia

Here's another article about the relationship between gut and mental health. I'm glad this is getting more and more press!
 
http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/21/4595712/gut-feelings-the-future-of-psychiatry-may-be-inside-your-stomach
 
 
Excerpt:
 
"Her parents were running out of hope. Their teenage daughter, Mary, had been diagnosed with a severe case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as ADHD. They had dragged her to clinics around the country in an effort to thwart the scary, intrusive thoughts and the repetitive behaviors that Mary felt compelled to perform. Even a litany of psychotropic medications didn’t make much difference. It seemed like nothing could stop the relentless nature of Mary’s disorder.
 
Their last hope for Mary was Boston-area psychiatrist James Greenblatt. Arriving at his office in Waltham, MA, her parents had only one request: help us help Mary.
Greenblatt started by posing the usual questions about Mary’s background, her childhood, and the onset of her illness. But then he asked a question that no psychiatrist ever had: How was Mary’s gut? Did she suffer digestive upset? Constipation or diarrhea? Acid reflux? Had Mary’s digestion seemed to change at all before or during her illness? Her parents looked at each other. The answer to many of the doctor’s questions was, indeed, “Yes.”
That’s what prompted Greenblatt to take a surprising approach: besides psychotherapy and medication, Greenblatt also prescribed Mary a twice-daily dose of probiotics, the array of helpful bacteria that lives in our gut. The change in Mary was nothing short of miraculous: within six months, her symptoms had greatly diminished. One year after the probiotic prescription, there was no sign that Mary had ever been ill."

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Barbarannamated

Great article. Thanks for posting, Nadia.

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Barbarannamated

I posted this on my Facebook page and 2 people immediately commented along lines of "oh, yes, my brain controls my gut..". It's no wonder people are so misinformed.... they don't take time to read or consider a different theory. :(

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Aria

I had severe stomach issues (nausea, acid reflux, colon spasms) and it turned out to all be due to the psych drugs. Once I got off them my tummy was fine.

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ang

Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being

The emerging and surprising view of how the enteric nervous system in our bellies goes far beyond just processing the food we eat
February 12, 2010 |By Adam Hadhazy
 
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ISTOCKPHOTO/ERAXION

As Olympians go for the gold in Vancouver, eventhe steeliest are likely to experience that familiar feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our "second brain".

 

A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does much more than merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.

 

Although its influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making.

 

"The second brain doesn't help with the great thought processes…religion, philosophy and poetry is left to the brain in the head," says Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the nascent field of neurogastroenterology and author of the 1998 book The Second Brain(HarperCollins).

 

Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, Gershon says.

 

This multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system enables us to "feel" the inner world of our gut and its contents. Much of this neural firepower comes to bear in theelaborate daily grind of digestion. Breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions that move everything on down the line.

 

Thus equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain, Gershon says. We likely evolved this intricate web of nerves to perform digestion and excretion "on site," rather than remotely from our brains through the middleman of the spinal cord. "The brain in the head doesn't need to get its hands dirty with the messy business of digestion, which is delegated to the brain in the gut," Gershon says. He and other researchers explain, however, that the second brain's complexity likely cannot be interpreted through this process alone.

 

"The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon," says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). For example, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. "Some of that info is decidedly unpleasant," Gershon says.

 

The second brain informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways, as well. "A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut," Mayer says. Butterflies in the stomach—signaling in the gut as part of our physiological stress response, Gershon says—is but one example. Although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one's moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals, Gershon says.

 

Given the two brains' commonalities, other depression treatments that target the mind can unintentionally impact the gut. The enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body's serotonin is found in the bowels. Because antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels, it's little wonder that meds meant to cause chemical changes in the mind often provoke GI issues as a side effect. Irritable bowel syndrome—which afflicts more than two million Americans—also arises in part from too much serotonin in our entrails, and could perhaps be regarded as a "mental illness" of the second brain.

 

Scientists are learning that the serotonin made by the enteric nervous system might also play a role in more surprising diseases: In a new Nature Medicine studypublished online February 7, a drug that inhibited the release of serotonin from the gut counteracted the bone-deteriorating disease osteoporosis in postmenopausal rodents. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) "It was totally unexpected that the gut would regulate bone mass to the extent that one could use this regulation to cure—at least in rodents—osteoporosis," says Gerard Karsenty, lead author of the study and chair of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center.

 

Serotonin seeping from the second brain might even play some part in autism, the developmental disorder often first noticed in early childhood. Gershon has discovered that the same genes involved in synapse formation between neurons in the brain are involved in the alimentary synapse formation. "If these genes are affected in autism," he says, "it could explain why so many kids with autism have GI motor abnormalities" in addition to elevated levels of gut-produced serotonin in their blood.

 

Down the road, the blossoming field of neurogastroenterology will likely offer some new insight into the workings of the second brain—and its impact on the body and mind. "We have never systematically looked at [the enteric nervous system] in relating lesions in it to diseases like they have for the" central nervous system, Gershon says. One day, perhaps there will be well-known connections between diseases and lesions in the gut's nervous system as some in the brain and spinal cord today indicatemultiple sclerosis.

 

Cutting-edge research is currently investigating how the second brain mediates the body's immune response; after all, at least 70 percent of our immune system is aimed at the gut to expel and kill foreign invaders.

 

U.C.L.A.'s Mayer is doing work on how the trillions of bacteria in the gut "communicate" with enteric nervous system cells (which they greatly outnumber). His work with the gut's nervous system has led him to think that in coming years psychiatry will need to expand to treat the second brain in addition to the one atop the shoulders.

 

So for those physically skilled and mentally strong enough to compete in the Olympic Games—as well as those watching at home—it may well behoove us all to pay more heed to our so-called "gut feelings" in the future.

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btdt

I am thinking about probiotics too and leaning towards primal defence... maybe not decided for sure yet more research

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cymbaltawithdrawal5600

This forum follows a specific format as listed in this post, which is pinned in this forum. You could hunt down the study and post it according to the guidelines.

 

Your article will probably be moved to the media section, unless a search (which is a good idea to do first to see if it has already been posted or could be added to an existing thread) finds an existing place better served by this topic.

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felin

Ok, thank you.

 

I just read the post that you posted the link for. Don't have ability to do all of that right now, but will later when brain is working better. :)

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