The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
......with Donna Gates
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Thursday, July 14th, 2011:
Why Fermented Foods May Be the Next Big Antidepressant
Gut microbes may influence your behavior.
Recent research is starting to catch up to what Donna Gates has been teaching through the Body Ecology Diet for the last fifteen years! Science now suggests that the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract may have a great influence on your brain activity.
In the past 10-15 years, we have seen a growing interest in microbiology. It turns out that bacteria are responsible for many mechanisms in the body. So far, we know that symbiotic microbes in our gastrointestinal tract (1):
- Synthesize vitamin K and important B vitamins.
- Communicate with and regulate the immune system.
- Play a role in reducing inflammation both in the gastrointestinal tract and in other areas of the body.
- Detoxify heavy metals from the body.
- Help digest food.
- Promote gut motility.
- Help heal and protect the lining of the gut.
Scientists have studied the mood-altering effects of beneficial bacteria before.
In 2010, one study looked at the Bifidobacterium longum in mice. (2) These mice were infected with a parasite, and the vagus nerve was severed. The vagus nerve connects the gut to the brain. This nerve would be what neurotransmitters and signals travel on.
- They found that the probiotic B. longum reduced anxiety-like behavior.
- Some route other than the vagus nerve was responsible for the calming affect of beneficial bacteria.
Another significant study in 2009 noted that beneficial bacteria reduced anxiety in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). However, at the time, the mechanism was not fully understood. (3)
The latest: Microbes generate neurochemicals!
In the immune system, bacteria can influence the expression of certain chemicals that inhibit or promote inflammation, which is an immune response. Researchers have found that microbes do not merely interact with the endocrine system, as they do with the immune system. They actively contribute to it.
Lead researcher of the study, Professor Mark Lyte from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, says that this is quite possibly a new field where “microbiology meets neuroscience”. Lyte speculates that the discovery of neurochemical-producing bacteria could have profound implications in the field of gastrointestinal health and psychology. (4)
What are neurochemicals anyway?
Neuro implies “brain.” Chemicals are molecules. Neurochemicals are molecules that play a role in brain activity. Neurochemicals can influence how we think and feel.
Oftentimes, pharmaceutical medications that seek to relieve depression are focused on a neurochemical called serotonin. Many of these drugs block serotonin receptors (such as SSRIs), so that more of it circulates throughout the body. The desired effected is a relaxed and positive mood.
Sometimes these pharmaceutical medications do not do what they say they will do. This has left doctors scratching their heads and wondering why. Part of the reason why pharmaceutical drugs do not always work is because we are still discovering different relationships within the body.
Serotonin is one example of a neurochemical. Others are:
These are some examples of neurochemicals that may sound familiar to you. The first four neurochemicals are also neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters do exactly what the name implies: they transmit signals between nerve cells.
- It is important to realize that neurochemicals are not only produced in the brain.
- For example, 90% of serotonin is made in the gastrointestinal tract.
Gut bacteria produce neurochemicals that circulate through our bloodstream.
Lyte proposes that probiotics affect behavior by producing their own neurochemicals, which we use. The effects are outside the walls of the intestines because these bacteria-specific neurochemicals were found in the bloodstream of patients.
Microbes exist in an interactive environment.
Lyte calls the environment that probiotics enter “interactive.” An interactive environment means that several systems in the body are all affected at once. This means that gut bacteria have an influence beyond the gastrointestinal system. He proposes that bacteria participate in the regulation of the hormonal system, the immune system, and the nervous system.
Proof That Fermented Foods Make Us Happier:
Dr. Gregor Reid, from the University of Western Ontario, commented on Lyte’s research. He said that while the idea seems “almost surreal”, Lyte supports the concept with studies to back up the claim.
Microbes both synthesize and respond to neurochemicals. And this affects the both the immune system and the brain, including psychology. Dr. Reid adds that many of the probiotic strains that we already eat in traditionally fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchee, and yogurt, are producing neurochemicals.
What does this mean about the fermented foods that I already eat?
Keep eating them! Both modern science and traditional medicine value the health-promoting benefits of fermented foods. As much as possible, and with every meal, include either a fermented food or a fermented beverage.
Body Ecology makes fermented foods and vegetables easy.
Making fermented veggies is easy with the Culture Starter. If you don’t have time to make coconut water or milk kefir, start with a few ounces a day of Innergy Biotic, a probiotic beverage that will change the way you think and the way you feel!
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Good bacteria in the gut can influence your behavior and even affect your mood! Bacteria create neurochemicals that inhibit or promote inflammation, and gut bacteria also contribute to the endocrine system. Neurochemicals play a role in your brain activity to influence how you think and feel. To put it all in perspective, 90% of a neurochemical like serotonin that regulates mood is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.
Fermented foods produce neurochemicals that can dramatically benefit our health and even affect our mood by making us happier. Try convenient Body Ecology fermented foods and veggies at home by drinking probiotic beverages or using the Culture Starter!
1. Sartor, R. Balfour. Probiotic therapy of intestinal inflammation and infections. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology: Gastrointestinal Infections. Vol 21: 1, 44-50. Jan, 2005.
2. Chronic Gastrointestinal Inflammation Induces Anxiety-Like Behavior and Alters Central Nervous System Biochemistry in Mice. Gastroenterology. Vol 139 : 6, 2102-2112.e1, Dec 2010.
3. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. GUT PATHOGENS. Vol 1, Num 1, 6. 19 Mar 2009. DOI: 10.1186/1757-4749-1-6
4. Lyte, M. Probiotics function mechanistically as delivery vehicles for neuroactive compounds: Microbial endocrinology in the design and use of probiotics. Bioessays. doi: 10.1002/bies.201100024
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