As your anxiety levels rise, it hits you all at once, and in the most unexpected place. A sudden wave of queasiness. Sharp pangs in your belly. Turns out these aren’t just feelings in your head – they’re feelings in your gut. To elaborate, science says these feelings could be real gastrointestinal side effects of emotional responses to your environment. So, what’s causing such a stir? Such responses are generated from neurotransmitters in an area of your gut coined ‘the second brain.’
What is the ‘Second Brain?’
The second brain looks and acts completely different than the brain in your head. The second brain, which goes by the scientific name ‘the enteric nervous system,’ uses an impressive 30+ neurotransmitters just like the big brain upstairs. And if you think that is fascinating, consider the fact that the second brain and the brain in your head share more than information. Directly linked by the vagus nerve, which acts as the information highway between the gut and brain, it has been confirmed that both brains are developed from the same tissues.
How Gut Microbes Impact the Second Brain
The environment created in your gut by the trillions of microbes that occupy and outnumber the enteric nervous system cells has proven powerful enough to actually impact our responses to stressful, real-life environments. A key factor that determines this outcome? The type of microbes that reside here and the amount of these microbes that is present.
There has been lots of compelling research about the impact probiotics, what scientists have deemed “beneficial microbes,” have on your gut and ultimately your overall health. In effect, you really may be eating your feelings…well, eating food with powerful microbes like probiotics that influence the way you feel. A powerful illustration of these beneficial microbes affecting the second brain in real life is the findings from a study conducted by the University of Los Angeles.
The takeaway? A Collective Evolution article noted how, of the 36 women tested with a yogurt placebo, probiotic-rich yogurt, and a control of neither real yogurt nor a placebo, those who consumed the yogurt that was rife with a wealth of probiotics, had notably better emotional responses when experiencing a stressful situation.
Harnessing Probiotics to Positively Affect the Second Brain
As we discussed in a recent blog, psychiatrist Ted Dinan and other members of the science community have identified ‘psychobiotics,’ a new group of powerful probiotics believed to affect your mental health in more ways than one. With such compelling research about various strains of this special type of probiotic as possible treatment for a wide variety of psychiatric issues like depression and anxiety, we are eager to see how humans harness probiotics to affect their second brain and overall mental health.
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