Recently, I reported on how the microbes in the gut have a measurable effect on the mind and mood.
For example: In one study, the fecal matter from fearless mice was replaced with fecal matter from anxious mice. The result was that the fearless mice became anxious. When reversed, the anxious mice became fearless. (1, 2)
But there is more! Dr. Emeran Mayer from UCLA is studying this effect more closely. Dr. Mayer believes that the types of microbes that populate in the gut as a child may determine the brain function, mood, behavior and personality you may develop when you grow up. (1)
In preliminary results with 60 volunteers, Mayer has found increased connections in regions of the brain that correlate to specific strains of microbes being predominant in the gut.
Mayer believes that the kind of brain we have is related to a specific group, or matrix, of microbes that populate the gut. He believes these bugs are responsible for molding the brain, moods and behaviors as we grow up. So, it seems that certain strains of gut bugs activate certain brain centers and develop into predictable patterns of brain function, feelings and behaviors as an adult.
Does the future hold special “bug formulas” rich in the bugs we need to feed our children to cultivate intelligence, equanimity, and other qualities?
What about stress? Physical and emotional stress has been repeatedly shown to decrease the populations of good gut bugs and increase the populations of bad gut bugs. In fact, other studies have shown that what you think, feel, and believe can impact your microbiology. (2, 3)
So if parts of the brain are developed by certain populations of gut bugs that are extremely susceptible to emotional and physical stress, how do we protect kids from replacing their “brain bugs” with “bad bugs”?
A healthy microbiology, and therefore a healthy brain, may be dependent on the foods we eat as kids, the stress we experience, and the environment we grow up in.
Boy, is that food for thought!
Good Bug Revival
Much research is being done on the effect of the re-introduction of good gut bugs on the mind. Mayer is involved with another study where probiotic-rich yogurt was given to a group of women with mood and stress concerns before their brains were scanned. The areas dealing with stress and mood were less reactive after ingesting the probiotics. (1)
Numerous other studies are underway dealing with the effect of probiotics on the mood, memory and focus functions of the brain with very promising results. (1)