In recent years, the connection between your gut health and your mood and behavior has become increasingly clear—so much so that some scientists are starting to consider probiotics (beneficial bacteria) as a potential alternative to antidepressant medications .
For instance, the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 has been shown to normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice. Research published in 2011 also demonstrated that probiotics can have a direct effect on brain chemistry, thereby improving feelings of anxiety or depression. There's also a wealth of evidence showing intestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases.
In a very real sense, you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression, and suppressing aggression, is actually found within your intestines, not your brain. The implications are particularly significant in our current era of rampant depression and emotional “malaise.”
There’s compelling evidence suggesting that improving your gut health is a very important component, if not the key, to successfully addressing depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to do this is to add traditionally fermented or cultured foods to your daily diet. To learn more about your gut-brain connection, and how probiotics may help you improve your mental health, please review my previous article, “Are Probiotics the New Prozac?
According to the authors in the featured study, “disgust”
was the emotion that was most strongly felt in the gut.
Fear, anxiety, and shame also generated a felt impact in
this area. All four of these emotions are generally felt by
those experiencing depression, and I’m not surprised to
see a strong connection between these emotions and
Stress Takes a Heavy Toll on Your Gut
Excess weight linked to brain changes that may relate to memory, emotions, and appetite
Jeremy D. Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, led a multicenter team that visualized the molecule, N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) application. NAA is associated with brain cell health. Overweight study participants exhibited lower levels of NAA in the hippocampus than normal weight subjects. The effect was independent of age, sex, and psychiatric diagnoses.
The importance of the hippocampus -- a seahorse-shaped organ deep within the brain -- to the formation and preservation of memory and to emotional control is well known, Dr. Coplan notes, but its role in appetite control is less established.
"The relevance of the finding is that being overweight is associated with specific changes in a part of the brain that is crucial to memory formation and emotions, and probably to appetite," said Dr. Coplan. The study is believed to be the first human research documenting the association of NAA with body weight.
"Whether low NAA is a consequence of being overweight, causes being overweight, or a combination of both remains to be determined," Dr. Coplan added. "Future studies are planned to focus on whether weight loss leads to an increase in NAA."
"We also found that high worry also produced low levels of NAA in the hippocampus, but was not associated with a high body mass index (BMI)," Dr. Coplan said. Dr. Coplan and his team looked at persons with a BMI equal to or greater than 25. Normal weight is defined as a BMI of 18.5-24.9, overweight between 25 and 29.9, and obesity at a BMI of 30 or greater.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Being overweight appears related to reduced levels of a
molecule that reflects brain cell health in the
hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory,
learning, and emotions, and likely also involved in
appetite control, according to a study performed by
researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and
The results of the study were published in Neuroimage: Clinical