Have you ever gone through an emotional experience where you’ve said, “That makes me sick to my stomach.”? Or get excited or anxious about something and feel butterflies in your tummy? Do you trust your “gut feelings” or intuition? There’s an easy answer to why this is…the very real gut connection to the brain.
We’ve always known there has been this connection but it’s really just been over the last 10 to 15 years that it’s been scientifically proven and found that we have hundreds of millions of neurons in our intestines, or guts. There is such a strong connection that our “guts” are said to be our “second brain.” Now, it’s not nearly as powerful as its cerebral counterpart, there are a mere 1/1000 neurons in the gut comparably to the brain, but there is definitely a biochemical strength there.
In 2011, the Brain/Body Institute at McMaster University in Ontario did research on mice and how they dealt with stress. They discovered that having upset flora in the stomach could affect their memory. When the researchers introduced Bifidobacterium longum as a supplement, it seemed to increase memory and help the brains of the mice function better.
Dr. Meyer at UCLA studied 39 female patients divided into 3 groups. 13 were given a probiotic dairy product, 13 a normal dairy product and the other 13 were given a placebo. At the end of the study, the doctor found that the 13 who took the probiotic showed significant change in the function and structure of their brains! Yes, the kind of probiotics you can find in a dozen different yogurt brands at your local supermarket.
All the information in your second brain or the “gut” neurons travel directly up the vagus nerve to the brain, so the microflora in the gut will absolutely effect our minds and moods. So what can we do to help this effect?
A great way to start is with a food diary, not necessarily a diary as in counting your calorie intake but keeping track of what you eat and how it makes you feel. Start recording how you feel after each thing that you eat. Does chocolate make you happy? Do you feel sluggish after eating bread? Do you feel sad after eating peanut butter? Pay attention to how your fuel is affecting your brain.
It’s also important to note that it has been found that an imbalance of the microflora in your gut can have such negative effects as to cause neurological disorders, such as forms of autism and seizures. So we’re not just talking about your mood, we’re talking about the actual structure of your brain.
So pay attention to your diet. You can also take supplements to help those good probiotics in your tummy, just make sure to pay attention to how they should be stored and their shelf lives. Some probiotics need to be refrigerated and they are a living organisms so they will die after a certain time frame. Just remember to fuel your body with happy foods and your brain will thank you for it.