As many studies have shown, stress and depression have a powerful impact on physical health, including on the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
These psychological conditions originate in the brain, and with some time can affect the gut microbiota, as a result, provoking various intestinal disorders. Base on this fact, it is reasonable to say that this brain-gut connection can bear a bi-directional nature. In other words, if something that happens in the brain affects the deep bowels, then everything that happens in the intestine, also affects the functioning of the brain.
For instance, can you remember this feeling of “butterflies in the belly”? It may seem that you’re getting signals from a quite unexpected place, namely, from your collateral brain inside the gut. Circumscribed within your intestinal walls, this collateral brain opens a new field for research about the interrelation between digestion, mood, health, and even the way of thinking.
Scientifically this collateral brain inside your gut calls the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). This ENS includes two thin lining layers with more than 100 million nerve cells, which are filling the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. The main role of the ENS is controlling the digestion process, starting with swallowing food, up to the release of enzymes to break down nutrients and to absorb them into the bloodstream. Moreover, the ENS is successfully communicating with the main brain in two-way around response. In such a way, the ENS takes charge for the emotional shifts that a person can experience while coping with irritable bowel syndrome, functional bowel problems, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain.
The recent research on mice has shown that after fecal transplantation from species, which were experiencing diarrhea and various anxiety behaviors, the recipient germ-free mice were starting to experience changes not only in their intestinal functions but also in their behavior.
The correlation between the gut-brain functioning can be considered as bi-directional and capable of control through the achievement of a certain bacterial balance of the intestinal ecosystem.
Interrelation that Gives New Opportunities
The modern understanding of the interrelation between the Enteric Nervous System and the Central Nervous System provides functional therapists with entirely new ways in treatment. If our two brains are communicating with each other, then it would be reasonable to use their communication for good. Such mind-body therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and medical hypnotherapy are gaining wide popularity within gastroenterologists medium. Furthermore, a properly selected diet that shapes a well-balanced bacterial environment within the intestine also becomes an advanced method in overcoming intestinal disorders on the same level with psychological problems.
The Brain-Gut Connection. Accessed from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/
Intestinal bacteria alter gut and brain function, study shows. Accessed from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170301142503.htm
When Gut Bacteria Changes Brain Function. Accessed from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/gut-bacteria-on-the-brain/395918/