We all know the basic steps to keeping a young, healthy brain includes eating a balanced and varied diet, regular exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep.
Research now shows that our brain health may also be influenced by an unexpected source, called our second brain. Within the walls of our digestive system is the gut, which contains bacteria that could help mould our brain structure, possibly influencing our moods, behaviour, and mental health.
The brain and the digestive system are intricately linked. The gut communicates with the brain via the specific nerve extending, from the brainstem to the abdomen via the heart, oesophagus and lungs, known as the gut-brain axis. This communication happens through molecules that are produced by gut bacteria and then enter the bloodstream.
The blood releases both neuroactive compounds and hormones, which enter the bloodstream, and go to the brain. An imbalance of beneficial versus harmful gut bacteria; has been linked to psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as anxiety, depression and stress. Indeed, research suggests that manipulating the gut bacteria can in some way produce behaviours related to anxiety and depression.
A 2013 study found replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice led the mice to become less anxious and more sociable. It also worked in reverse and when the bold mice became timid, they got the bacteria of anxious mice and aggressive mice calmed down when scientists altered their gut bacteria by changing their diet, feeding them probiotics or dosing them with antibiotics.
There are several implications of this gut-brain connection such as the possibility of both prevention and treatment of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders via gut health.
Finally, this shows us the important contribution having a healthy gut can make to having a healthy mind too.
Based on an Article by Medical Daily