You think your feelings and emotions are your own, but are they really? What does it mean to be human? Objectively, you could say that being human means being made of human cells. But a typical human actually has more bacteria cells growing in and on them than their own cells. These aren’t just passive residents either. Through their interactions with our brain and our immune system, they influence our lives and even our decision making!
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of not just bacteria, but also archaea, viruses, and even protozoa. There are over a thousand species living in healthy people. Scientific studies seem to indicate that the more diverse and varied the gut microbiome, the better the gut health of the individual.
A lot of factors go into the make up of your gut microbiome, many of them were out of your control. They include your mom’s microbiome, how you were born (C-section vs vaginal birth), what you ate as an infant, baby, toddler, and child, the environment you grew up in, and the chemicals you were exposed to. What this means is that by the time you’re an adult, your gut microbiome, healthy or otherwise, is pretty well established.
You Are Your Bacteria
The gut-brain axis is the connection, and more importantly, the two-way communication between the bacteria in your gut and your brain. How these signals and messages are transmitted are still unknown, but scientists do know that it is complicated. The Vagus nerve is central to all this communication. Imagine a huge fibrous, net-like mass of nerves, all plugged into your intestines. They come together and join up as a big thick nerve, the Vagus nerve, and transmit all their little messages to the brain. It’s like having a direct line to the boss.
If only it were this simple. Other factors that affect your gut microbiome and your brain include hormones, the immune system, neurotransmitters made by the gut microbiome, and the ability to make the gut and blood-brain barriers more or less permeable. The foods that you eat nourish certain types of bacteria. So, in a way, there is a deeper truth to the phrase, “You are what you eat.” You also feel what you eat!
A Complex Gut
As you can see from this brief newsletter, the gut-brain relationship is VERY complex. And it’s even harder to come to a solid conclusion about the effects of food on our mood and behavior. But every study does give a small glimpse into how the gut-brain axis works. Maybe in time, we’ll be able to piece together the parts of this complicated puzzle.
Follow That Gut Feeling
In the meantime, as you go about life, it’s a good idea to listen to your gut. Is it telling you to eat junk? Then perhaps a diet overhaul is needed. Does it crave fruits and veggies? Lucky you, you’ve got some healthy bacteria taking care of you! Do you have a sudden urge to buy science jewelry? Well, that might not be your gut bacteria; it’s most likely this awesome information you just read! You’re in luck, we’ve got our gastrointestinal tract necklace ready for your shopping cart! Purchase it for yourself or a friend. It also makes an excellent gift for doctors, nutritionists, fecal transplant experts, and happy gut-healthy humans.
written by Science with Evie