Sometimes I crave Chocolate. I can feel moody. Is this behaviour due to Nature or to Nurture? Control is an illusion when it comes to cravings. I was positively provocative, Indiana Jones style, in exploring this mood behaviour.I asked, what else and what else? I discovered that micro bacteria demand to be fed and that I respond. But how could I influence my response?
My research brought me to Scott C. Anderson with the Irish Scientists, John F. Cryan and Ted Dinan, who provide exciting knowledge in “The Psychobiotic Revolution, Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection.” This new science informs and supports our Positive Health and Wellbeing in community living.
The argument Nature verses Nurture, genetic or learned behaviour; is not new. The evolving science relating to Gut Microbiota adds a new dimension that makes the debate provocative. How could the Microbiota impact mood? What is the pattern that creates this behaviour?
Good opportunity to explain a few new words.
Mood, a new definition, when the Microbiota send a chemical message to the brain and I have both a body sensation and a series of thoughts. These can be positive or negative. The impact begins in the gut. It is rapid. Mood is a symptom or a signal. Signalling occurs from microbiota to brain and brain to gut. It is bi-directional. The Gut-Brain Axis is a neurological pathway. It runs along the Vagus Nerve . The Vagus Nerve travels along the spine and connects the gut and the brain. This is bi-directional. The Vagus Nerve is the communication high way. It is called “the wanderer.” It goes in many directions between gut and brain, connecting with central organs and the peripheral nervous system.
Microbiota are micro bacteria. They live all around us in huge diversity. As a community they exist as the Microbiome and they manufacture genes. They also live inside us in every orifice. The Gut is from the mouth to the anus. My Gut Microbiome has living intelligence. The speed of response by the Microbiota (micro bacteria), is a match for any Artificial Intelligence. The gut has been called The Second Brain. The intestines have a double sock like internal layer called the Enteric Nervous System. This facilitates communication with the brain.
Patterns are the mechanism by which Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) deliver data to the brain. Communication is both direct and indirect, using neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters message patterns to the brain directly via the Vagus nerve and indirectly via the bloodstream. The Microbiota secrete and respond to Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA. These neurotransmitters are biological anti-depressants in the brain. This is one system that influences mood. Neurotransmitters link all life.
Probiotics are live Microbiota. Eg. Lactobicillus. Bifidobacteria. They need to be stored in a fridge. They need low sugar environments. Probiotics also provide the environment to encourage the growth of a desired depleted microbiota.
Prebiotics are the food for the Microbiota, which encourages them to grow/multiply.
Prebiotics are complex sugars called fibre. Examples are garlic, leeks and green vegetables. Fibre ensures regular movement though the gut. Both Prebiotics and Probiotics are sold without prescription. Labels need to be read with understanding.
Psychobiotic is the term created by Ted Dinan. Psychobiotics are Probiotics (live bacteria) that have an impact on the gut and on the brain. They are mood changers. Psychobiotics appear to have Positive psychiatric effects that improve depression, reduce anxiety and impact some neurological disorders. Studies as yet are mostly on germ free mice. (They were restored to germ enhanced mice after the testing).The possibility of Psychobiotic therapy using live bacteria to treat mood and cognitive/neurological disorders and as an alternative or complimentary to pharmacological medications is not yet established. October was Mental Health awareness month, with many events engaging those with lived experience. This 2017 knowledge is not yet talked about. There is need for awareness of how recovery for positive health and wellbeing can be maintained.
Bringing the learning forward: Anti-microbial resistance was detected in 1928, when Alexander Fleming discovered the mould Penicillin. The focus was on using the penicillin as an anti-biotic. It saved lives. Consideration as to how over use could impact the person and the environment where we co-exist was not brought forward.
More diverse Microbiota could encourage pro-social behaviour and so reduce loneliness. Loneliness impacts the level of mental health we experience on a given day. Microbiota variety happens quickly, a day makes a big difference. Medications can take longer. Psychobiotics may mitigate for mild to moderate depression. Psychobiotics would have less side effects. The new science of the Gut-Brain Axis provides hope and evidence in the direction of choice for the person in illness who is also impacted by lifelong side effects.
Nurturing refers to encouraging, responsible, caring, balanced behaviour in our communities. The WHO says that (Positive) Mental Health is a universal human right. Living in our broken world, of war, crime, poverty, trauma, loneliness and disrespect for dignity of others, almost every one can experience a mental health issue in a life time. How can we build resilience for ourselves?
Scientific studies have shown that, Pro-social behaviour was lessened in germ free mice, which means they were not interested in connecting with other mice. When germs were re-introduced to their guts, they became social as usual. Pro-social behaviour in humans encourages us to connect with others and with our environments. Being pro-social mitigates against loneliness and perhaps crime and war. Sickness Behaviour (curling up), makes us less social. Biologically this wisdom is to prevent the spread of infection to others. It can be negative in that it prevents us connecting when there is no real risk.
Homeostasis. All living creatures adjust their biology to their current environment, to maintain a balance of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. The body has systems to regulate the smooth running of all organs and systems. Maintaining optimum regulation of all systems to promote healthy internal environments is a process called Homeostasis. The Vagus Nerve plays a key role.
Nature refers to the biological systems of all living things. What then are the biological systems that support mood and better health?
Probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifid bacterium when abundant in the colon, produce GABA.GABA is a neurotransmitter that calms anxiety, down regulating the nervous system and reduces inflammation by down regulating the immune response. Like and dislikes are driven by neurotransmitters. Bifido also repairs the lining of the much used gut.
Dysbiosis occurs when the gut lining is damaged and is leaky. Homeostasis is interrupted and widespread inflammation occurs in the gut and the brain and resulting in diseases and disorders and “Leaky Gut”.
A healthy gut regulates a balance of Microbiota. Balance in the gut is balance in the brain, rational behaviour, better cognition, balanced emotional responses and improved pain perception. Variety and diversity supports healthy brain function. Variety is the key in the gut-brain axis. Getting the right mix in the gut and maintaining it reduces risk of Anxiety, Depression, autistic behaviour and Irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s Disorder and Dementia.
The gut has been called the second brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical catalysts that facilitate communication networks to and from the brain. Neurotransmitters control mood. Microbiota produce neurotransmitters that facilitate Psychobiotic effects in the brain. Brain Function, Metabolism, Immunity, Emotion and Nervous System are all interconnected. The Microbiota are on first step of the Gut-Brain Axis.
Nature and Nurture connected by Microbiota
Our microbiome is set by our mother; how we were delivered, if we were breast fed, who cuddled us and kissed us, if we had a pet or played in the mud, the sand and the sea, during those first 2/3 years. This provides our all over microbiome starter pack. The mouth continues through life to be an area for Microbiota distribution reflecting the diversity of the gut.
The phone rang.
“Mary, she was in the cabbage and she ate a big slug. What do I need to do?”
I asked: “Were there slug pellets? No, then all will be well. The acid will deal with the slug. She will be fine.”
Parenting can be very scientific!
2023 How we can optimise our Gut- Brain Axis.
The Scientist, Prof. Andrew D. Huberman provides findings on Professor Justin Sonnenberg’s study. High Fermented diet did increase microbiota diversity and decrease in inflammatory markers. The High Fibre diet created less diversity than the High Fermented diet. Studies were done by human groups.
Steps to Diversity
- Low sugar fermented foods increase the Microbiota diversity and reduce inflammation in the body. Eat and make sauerkraut. 6 servings best over the day.
- Fibre helps the enzymes to digest other fibre in the gut. This creates more flow of fibre and faeces through the gut. High Fibre choices, daily. More pooh!
- What we eat determines the chemistry of our gut. This in turn activates the ph and the growth or the reduction of the microbiome and how many stay and how many go out in faeces. Pooh consistency is a major area of interest in studies relating to the microbiome. Observe!
- Excess Probiotics can cause brain fog.
- Dysbiosis, occurs when there is a marked reduction in the variety of Microbiota post antibiotics or treatment or after stress experiences. Eat live plain sugar free yogurt daily during and after.
- Track the mood use a colour code and see how your week looks as you make small changes. This is your data and share to support your choices.
My chocolate craving revealed a newer Science. Neuropod cells in the intestine can detect sugar and signal the brain. Dopamine is activated. Feed me more. When artificial sweeteners are presented the Neuropod cells detect the sweetness and signal the brain. However the pattern of signalling is different. These cells inter link with the Vagus nerve.
A healthy gut is a diverse gut and our bodies have a complex system that keeps it in check. Our outer environment impacts our inner environment. Stress impacts the gut and our biochemistry and inflammation negatively impacts the brain reducing cognition .We can alter mood by adjusting the bacteria in the gut. Inflammation is a risk.
Stay Science informed Data needs to be sourced directly from experts and presented with factual findings. The shared data of AI generated content has not yet been able to verify what is validated and proven. It needs Human curiosity. There is always the risk that data is left out. Can Science keep up to live context? Can Medicine keep up with Science? As a coach I believe that you are your own expert. We all need to stay curious in our choices and be informed. Create the right environment for our Microbiota to be diverse and to maintain homeostasis.
Find your Scientist and follow the data that supports you. It is an investment in making choices about your Positive Health. They write amazing evidenced books. It is empowering. Share your data with your General Practitioner. Talk about it! Coaching instils the strength of curiosity. Science is about asking, testing and assessing the answers. Coaching is a science where questions are key and we dig deep to find answers, to free and to unblock. We need to question options. We can make choices that are actionable by asking about the science in these areas.
Next time on Woof! Walk the Talk: Connecting with our natural environments for Positive Health.
Leave a comment. What data helped you today? What will you ask going forward?
Keywords; Gut-BrainAxis, PositiveHealth, Coaching, Psychobiotics, Mood, Science
Additional Resources; informing you to support your choices.
- Book. The Psychobiotic Revolution by Scott C. Anderson with John F. Cryan and Ted Dinan. (2019).
- Book. Positive Provocation, 25 questions to elevate your coaching practice. Robert Biswas-Diener (2023).
- Robert Biswas-Diener Interview (2023). Question the questions. Are we asking the right questions? Assumptions beware. Context changes perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVErIF-SwIsright
- The Vagus Nerve and how we can hack into its potential. https://youtu.be/gp67EQhNfj8
- Andrew Huberman. A Scientist who makes sauerkraut! (2023).Gut Brain Axis. Healthy Gut Microbiome. https://youtu.be/15R2pMqU2ok?t=4347
- Prof. Justin Sonnenberg, Stanford article Fermented foods increase gut diversity. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/07/fermented-food-diet-increases-microbiome-diversity-lowers-inflammation