| May 1, 2022
The research was published by a famous American gastroenterologist. (Photo: EBC)
Research published in the scientific journal Nature by American gastroenterologist Iman Mayer explains how the brain connects to the gut. This interaction is relevant not only to the regulation of digestive functions, but also to mood and intuitive decision-making.
First, remember that there is a complex network of nerve endings that line the entire digestive system, especially the intestinal tract (called the “enteric nervous system”). This is evolutionarily derived from cells that migrate from the neural crest and permanently settle in the intestine.
There are, in turn, structures in the central nervous system that can be called the brain part of the intestinal system. The connection between the brain and the intestine is established through neural pathways, particularly the vagus nerve. But also through the bloodstream, of course.
On the other hand, there are other intrinsic cells located in the deeper layers of the intestinal tube (enteroendocrine cells or enterochromaffins) that are full of neurotransmitters. For example, they contain peptides (also found in the brain) and serotonin.
In fact, the gut is the place in the human anatomy where the highest amount of serotonin is found (more than 90%). The rest is found in platelets and only 1% is in the brain.
But the gut is not just a tube with neurons and neurotransmitters connected in one way or another to the brain and to certain neurons and neurotransmitters. It also contains a large number of microorganisms. Together, they form what are called “germs”.
It is a series of bacteria (more than our cells) that help us with digestion, fighting other pathogens and many other processes.
Many people have already found that stress (from having to speak out or take a test) predisposes us, not only acutely, but also chronically, to vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or constipation.
In fact, of course, symptoms follow the stressful stimuli (which sometimes need not be negative). There’s even a very special expression to define falling in love: “feeling butterflies in your stomach.”
Anxiety and depression are the clearest representatives of mood problems. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons for consultation not only in a psychiatric clinic, but also in primary care. Depression is increasingly prevalent, and it is a major public health problem.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) – and this was already the case years before the epidemic – it will be the major health problem in the world in 2030.
In the past two decades, numerous scientific evidence has been presented, in animal models and in humans, indicating that when an individual is exposed to stress, a change occurs in the gut and can even modify the composition of the microbiota.
Conversely, experiential alteration of microbes can also induce behavioral changes. We know that the brain affects microorganisms from studies showing that stress in the early stages of life reduces the concentration of Lactobacillus and causes the emergence of a concentration of pathogenic bacteria by disrupting the physiological balance between different groups of microorganisms.
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