October 2017 - Mind Body and Intuition

In my recent articles entitled “Our Society's Distorted Perception: Normal Physical Function” and “Mindfulness through Meditation” I explored the roots of psychological and behavioral disorders found in physical dysfunction. Relationships among biochemical neurotransmitters, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), the stress response (fight or flight), the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic relaxation response were explored.

The human gut and its microbial communities of bacteria, archaea, fungi, yeasts and protozoa act as another partner in these pathways that stretches our function beyond the limitations of our own human genome, overlapping into the realm of intuition. As an extension of our function that acts somewhat as a second brain, the intestinal microbiota are also very important to our health and well-being, and may well be the origin of our “gut feeling”. The importance to our health is many fold including generation of vitamins and other nutrients, as well as neurotransmitters (the home of most of our serotonin), nervous system and immune responses.

The brain-gut-microbiome (BGM) connection incorporates our intestinal bacteria and the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), a neuronal mesh containing as many neurons as the spinal cord within the linings of our gastrointestinal systems. The brain communicates via the BGM coordinating neural, endocrine (hormonal), and immune functions. Via the BGM and the HPA, stress and our emotions affect the function of our gastrointestinal systems, with a return response from our gut further modulating our emotions and thoughts, including our intuitive thoughts.

This handshaking between the brain and gut/microbiome may also be at the root of many gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety, and depression, due to the effects of gut bacteria on brain chemistry and neuronal activity. A related reactive response may be experienced as well when stress affects our gut microbiota by reducing colonization or damaging our good flora making space for pathogenic (bad) bacteria, which again affects our brains and immune systems.

Gut microbiota number and diversity are important for optimal health and wellness from early childhood through late adulthood. Metabolism of nutrients (vitamins, iron, amino acids) and energy production are keys to development of our bodies and minds. Thus, inherent risks are involved in the wide-spread proliferation of antibiotics that can destroy our good flora and induce problematic imbalances. My gut feeling is … I should take some probiotics!

© September 2017 by Dr. Christopher Jackson, PhD, DOM