It makes sense. Ladybugs seem to make everyone happy. Beetles and locusts put everyone in a bad mood. It has long been thought to be the same with the good and bad bacteria in the gut. Recently studies correlating good bacteria with good moods have gotten the attention of mainstream doctors.
UCLA researcher, Kirsten Tillisch, shared that her study was “the first to demonstrate an effect of fermented milk product with probiotics intake on gut-brain communication in humans.” Tillisch, a gastroenterologist in Santa Monica, specializes in celiac issues, Crohn’s, colon cancer screening, gastrointestinal diseases, and mind/body therapies for chronic pain.
This last bit explains her interest in probiotics and emotions. On her bio page, she links to UCLA’s Center for Neurobiology of Stress, which has as its tagline: “Bringing the brain back into medicine.” A core part of their research is devoted to the Brain and the Gut and the “complex bidirectional interactions between the digestive system and the brain.”
Meanwhile, back to our little friends, probiotics. Scientists have long known that the brain signals stress (say, right before a big speech in front an auditorium of strangers) to the gut (and the knots and turbulence are unmistakable to anyone who has given a speech for the first time). What many people don’t know is that the vagus nerve is busy carrying signals in both directions. The health of bacteria in the gut affects neurotransmitter function and thus mood back in the brain.
Fast Facts: The gut contains as many neurons as the spinal cord and is often referred to as the “second brain.” The gut is responsible for telling the brain about hunger and fullness, of course, but also regulates mood, since 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut.
Just think about it: Healthy communities have a good vibe. Dangerous, out-of-control communities cause nothing but stress. No surprise that the same forces are in play with friendly versus unfriendly bacteria in the gut!