I am trying to calm my enthusiasm for a minute to truly connect with why these findings and the continued findings of how important our gut microbiome is for me. I spent years in digestive pain. I ate poorly because I didn't know that eating something else would help me. I became complacent with the pain and the bloating. I thought this was what life was like for me and that I would never know anything different.
When the pain got worse in undergrad so did my anxiety and I began experiencing panic attacks. I had no clue at the time that all these symptoms were connected. There have been a lot of things that have helped healed my gut over time (and trust me when I got motivated and aware that I could heal, I tried everything). But, one of the factors that I believe helped me the most was working on changing the microflora in my gut.
I grew up eating my emotions. I loved sugar, I loved fatty meals, I loved gluten. When my parents divorced, food came in to numb that pain. I had no idea that how I was treating my body as a kid over time would destroy my gut, destroy the healthy balance of good to bad bacteria, and leave me in pain and confusion as to how I got there.
Gut bacteria can:
Help with digestion
Protect the intestinal barrier
Direct microbial-produced neurochemical production (like GABA a neurotransmitter for relaxation)
Help to prevent stress induced alterations
Direct activation of neural pathways between gut and brain
Improve absorption of nutrients from food
Limit small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (which many individuals with digestive pain have and have yet to be diagnosed)
Decrease cortisol production
Influences neural development, brain chemistry, emotional behavior, pain perception, and how the stress system responds in adulthood
Play a role in manufacturing the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences mood and GI activity
I could go on and on. There is even research being done right now on what would happen to our body and our self expression if we entirely changed the bacteria in our gut. Basically, what if we are just large bacterias walking around. Is bacteria running the show? Is bacteria really the "soul" we talk about on the inside?
I wrote my thesis on how to cultivate a relationship to the gut brain to teach to therapists about how their clients are eating and treating their body will help facilitate progress across time and in sessions. The fact that more research continues to come out about the connection between the health of our gut and our mental health fascinates and excites me. What if someone dealing with severe depression could one day take a prescribed dose of specific strains of probiotics instead of prozac to help them heal their gut and their mind.
If there is anything that you take away from this today it is start feeding your gut some healthy bacteria every day! Eat some fermented vegetables, kimchee, sauerkraut, take a refrigerated probiotic. And then notice how you feel, notice how it affects your mood, your digestion, your ability to focus. And if you are experiencing digestive pain, give your body time to heal. When you set up the best internal environment it will heal.