How Your Bacteria Influences Your Neurotransmitters (BRAIN HEALTH!)
By Kusha Karvandi
Bacteria has the potential to save your life – not all bacteria is bad and it’s important to know the difference.
On the other hand, some bacteria, which are called probiotics, can actually help the body to carry out its natural functions.
New scientific research that focuses on the role of gut bacteria has revealed some insightful information about how bacteria can affect the brain. In fact, there are many studies that show how the activities of the brain and the types of bacteria a person has residing in their gastrointestinal system are linked together.
The Studies Behind The Findings
A study reported at last year’s annual Society for Neuroscience meeting looked at the effects of bacteria on 22 men. After taking bacterial supplements for four weeks, the men felt like their memory had improved and their daily stress levels had decreased.
Another study showed that altering microbial levels made shy, anxious mice become more bold and social. Mental conditions such as depression spread to rats after they were inoculated with bacteria that came from a person with depression.
The condition of the brain can be altered by microbes because these gut bacteria create chemicals that change how brain cells communicate. According to renowned gastroenterologist Kirsten Tillisch, microbes are “so innate in who we are [that] it’s a conversation that our bodies are having with our microbiome.”
Instead of being a foreign substance that alters the brain, these bacteria are an intrinsic part of the relationship between the brain and the body. This is true for most species of animals, therefore, many studies done on the effect of gut bacteria have used mice or flies as subjects.
The Bacteria And The Brain
There is more bacteria than human cells in a person’s body, so it is no surprise that they end up having an effect on the brain. The microbiome, which is a term used to describe all bacteria within the body, expels serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
These chemicals are neurotransmitters that influence a person’s mood and chemicals produced in the gut tend to travel to the brain. The vagus nerve – a large bundle of nerve cells that connect the gut and brain – transmits these chemical signals to the brain.
People inherit a great deal of bacteria from their mothers, which may partially account for why conditions like depression tend to run in the family, but a person is not stuck with the bacteria they are born with.
New techniques such as bacterial transplants and supplements can overhaul the microbiome, significantly altering mood and health.
Prebiotic foods, which are foods that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, can also make a change to gut bacteria. Like a two-way street, the moods of the brain also change the activity of a person’s microbiome.
Stress can harm microbial communities, causing intestinal discomfort, while calming meditation can improve the activity of beneficial bacteria. Though the relationship between microbes and the brain is still not entirely clear, it is a relationship in which both groups affect each other equally.
This connection between the mind and gut is definitely one that’s on the rise – what is your knowledge and experience with it? Let us know in the comments below!
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Kusha Karvandi is an entrepreneur and fitness enthusiast with a passion for "biohacking" to help others live their best life. Kusha has 9 years experience as a personal trainer and health club manager, with over 10,000 session hours serviced and 15 certifications. He is the author of Nutriscribe, known for its no-nonsense, no calorie counting approach to weight loss and healthy eating. To round out his passion for helping others get in shape, Kusha has made it his mission to ensure that everyone has a unique personal training experience through his app, Exerscribe, which provides custom and adaptable workout plans to anyone with a gym membership.
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