There is a constant connection between the brain and the intestine. So, for example, the tangerine you eat (or any other fruit) affects not only the intestines, but also the brain. At the same time, stress, negative emotions destroy not only the mood, but also the intestinal microflora. How is this possible? The book “Healthy Gut” describes this process in detail.
Butterflies in the stomach Healthy gut
The brain and intestines are connected initially. Sometimes, evaluating something in the absence of objective data, we confirm our judgment like this: “I feel it in my gut.” The connection between the brain and the gut is not only metaphorical. They are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a “track” of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide information about how hungry we are, whether we are under stress, whether pathogens are present in the intestines, and so on. This information highway is called the gut-brain axis, and its task is to exchange data between the end points of the axis. Anxiety in the lower abdomen when you see a hotel bill is a prime example of the contact between the brain and the intestines.
You are stressed, and the gut will immediately know about it.
The enteric nervous system is sometimes called the second brain of the body. This part of the nervous system connects to the brain through hundreds of millions of neurons. Its task is to control the gastrointestinal tract. An extensive network of connections “monitors” all the digestive organs from the esophagus to the anus. The enteric nervous system can function without the help of the central nervous system, but they maintain regular communication. Our “second brain” cannot be used to compose a symphony or paint a masterpiece, but it plays a very important role in controlling the mechanisms of the inner “tube”. The network of neurons in the gut is as developed and complex as the network of neurons in the spinal cord, which might seem overkill for digestion control.
How stress is reflected
Communication between the brain and gut microbes is a dialogue. The microflora affects, for example, mood and memory, and the brain can decide which microbes live in the gut. If you cause stress or depression in a laboratory animal, the composition of its microflora will change. How exactly this happens, no one knows for sure. Perhaps a mechanism similar to the “fight or flight” reaction is triggered. When an animal senses a threat from a potential aggressor, its body releases hormones and neurotransmitters that prepare it to attack or flee. At the same time, the heartbeat increases, energy reserves are released to nourish the muscles, blood circulation is accelerated, and changes in the motility of the gastrointestinal tract occur. When digestion slows down or stops in response to a threat, gut microbes immediately notice it. The result will be more microbes that are better adapted to the new, slow passage of food, and the number of microbes that thrive during rapid intestinal transit will decrease.
Stress, microflora and the immune system constantly interact.
Some see beneficial bacteria as a possible way out to restore normal functioning of the gut-brain axis. A special class of probiotic bacteria – psychobiotics are designed to relieve psychiatric symptoms by supplying psychoactive substances from the intestine to the brain. Adding bacteria to the gut that synthesize behavioral-normalizing substances may help restore healthy gut-brain communication. There is growing evidence that adding probiotic bacteria to the intestines of stressed and depressed animals improves behavior. Preliminary human studies also show promise of such an approach, in particular for symptom relief in chronic fatigue syndrome. Even healthy volunteers who consumed a cocktail of two probiotics every day for a month said they felt less anxiety and depression. There is reason for optimism, but it is important to note that these are preliminary studies. More trials are needed to determine how best to use probiotic bacteria to treat conditions such as depression and severe anxiety.