Our Brains & Bellies by Nichole Dabrowski, Counseling Intern

Could you ever imagine that your gut activity was related to the activity in your brain? Or that your mood, depression, or anxiety is related to what is going on in your intestines? Our gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines) and our brain are connected. How is this so? Doctors and researchers alike note that we all have a brain in our skull and a 2nd brain in our gut. 

This “brain” in our gut is unique to each of us and is composed of millions of kinds of bacteria–called a microbiome. The microbiomes in our gut can affect how our brain develops, our brain chemistry, as well as our pain perception and emotional behaviors. In research, when rodents’ microbiomes were changed and altered with beneficial OR disease-causing bacteria, their brain chemistry also shifted.

The brain can also trigger changes to our microbiome gut bacteria. Mental stress can change the microbiome enough to leave a rodent more susceptible to infectious diseases. This leads professionals to wonder, do probiotics and other GI health methods impact brain and mental health? Are there ways that we can use gut health to positively influence our anxiety, depression, or emotions?

We do not know and we will not know for a long while. Research has only just started, with the only test subjects being rodents. Much more information and data is needed to draw conclusions, but one thing is for sure, our brain and gut talk, A LOT!

As mental health professionals, we are always encouraging clients to exercise, socialize, and take days off when needed. We also recommend eating healthy and diverse foods as this contributes to overall nutrition and wellness. In the coming years, however, diet may become a more important concern of therapists and clients alike.

If you are interested in mental health support, please call (847) 854-4333 to schedule a first-time appointment with a therapist at Owens Counseling.

If you are struggling with GI upset or pain, please call 911 if it is an emergency. If it is not emergent, please seek consult from your primary care physician. 

References: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling