Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gut Bacteria and Mood

Trillions of bacteria live in our gut; in fact, the number of bacteria out-number our own cells about 10:1.  The gut is also home to 100 million neurons and is often called the "second brain."  Not only that, but 60-70% of our immune system is within the gut.  

Many people are aware that we all have "good bacteria" and "bad bacteria" within the digestive system.  Having 85% good bacteria is considered "normal."  

The incredible thing is that research with animals models is finding that the content and ratio of bacteria in the gut impacts behavior and "mood."  By changing the types of bacteria in the gut of animals, they have seen notable changes, primarily within behaviors that are described as "anxious" (e.g., animals can be seen as more cautious, timid, or reluctant to engage in new environments) vs. bold and adventurous.  The impact also works the other way.  When significant stress is introduced, the stress chemicals released can change the flora of the gut and therefore negatively impact immune function.  

This type of research may impact how we treat individuals with anxiety and mood symptoms.  In the future, doctors may want to test the bacterial flora and alter it to a more healthy state to see if this improves symptoms. 

To read more, connect to this article--That Gut Feeling: article in APA monitor

One reason I find this so interesting, is that my son is in the autistic spectrum and has difficulties with anxiety.  We notice that when he is on an antibiotic for a while, he seems worse.  We also feel he does better with a probiotic supplement to increase his good bacteria.  Many individuals within the autistic spectrum are noted to have significant allergies (immune issues) and digestive problems but no one knows why.  I will be watching for research that connects the gut, immune system, and autistic spectrum in some way...

What do you think?