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How are the psyche and the gut connected?
It is amazing how gut and mind interact: Fear, for example, accelerates the gastrointestinal passage – a real “anxiety diarrhoea” can develop. Depressive moods, on the other hand, can slow down the gastro-intestinal passage to the point of constipation. The emotional state of mind thus influences the intestinal activity. Conversely, recent studies suggest that the condition of the intestinal mucosa or the composition of the intestinal flora can also influence the mental state. So how are symptoms of a “nervous intestine” related to the psyche?
Intestine, psyche and brain: communication via the intestine-brain axis
Your intestine is riddled with around 100 million nerve cells: they form a completely autonomous nervous system (ENS) that controls all digestive processes and some functions of the immune system. The vagus nerve connects this nervous system via the spinal cord with the brain. This direct intestine-brain axis enables a mutual communication between the brain and the ENS – and thus also a relationship between psyche and intestine. The information carriers on this path are nerve impulses, messenger substances, peptides, fatty acids and biogenic amines.
Connection of gut and mind: Messenger substances on the vagus nerve
The “happiness hormone” serotonin, the motivation-increasing dopamine and the calming gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are important messenger substances that are produced in both the intestine and the brain and are used as information carriers. They shape the communicative interaction between the intestine and the psyche. Serotonin, for example, is mainly formed in the intestine. The amino acid tryptophan is needed for the production of the hormone, which in turn is produced by intestinal bacteria. A change in the intestinal microbiome can thus be expressed as a serotonin deficiency – and thus affect the emotional state.
The psyche can also influence the composition of the intestinal flora: Because intestine and psyche are also connected with the hormone balance. Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol. Among other things, the stress hormone leads to a reduction in intestinal movements. The resulting slower gastrointestinal passage can promote putrefactive processes and thus change the bacterial balance in the intestine in favour of harmful germs. Unwanted bacteria can spread, while useful intestinal bacteria are displaced. Since these useful bacteria are also significantly involved in the production of emotionally regulating messengers, their decline can have a negative effect on your emotional state.
The composition of the intestinal flora can therefore influence your psyche and your state of mind – and vice versa. If you support your intestinal flora through a balanced diet, you are also doing something for your mental well-being. The best way to do this is with a varied diet that is tailored to your individual intestinal flora. However, nutrition is only one factor that influences the psyche. Relaxation techniques as well as a general stress reduction can also help to relieve your intestines.
If you would like to study the topic in detail, we have here all the articles from “My Health & My Life” that deal with the gut and the psyche and can give you helpful tips on how to understand the connection.
Gastrointestinal problems: Regulate gut and mind well-being via microbiome
About 100 trillion microorganisms live and work in your intestine. There they support digestion by breaking down food into various components that your body can absorb. In this way they promote the absorption and synthesis of vitamins, enzymes, fatty acids and amino acids. They also produce messenger substances and hormone-like substances that are in direct communication with the brain. A particularly species-rich intestine therefore works best for your physical and mental health.
The species richness of the intestinal flora is significantly influenced by your diet and your lifestyle: While a varied, fibre-rich diet and a balanced lifestyle have a positive effect on the diversity of bacteria in your intestine, the intake of antibiotics, an unbalanced diet or chronic stress can have an unfavourable effect on the microbiome.
Would you like to know how you can best support your personal microbiome? With BIOMES it’s easy: Just send a small stool sample to our laboratory. Using the latest biotechnological analysis method INTEST.pro we can provide you with a comprehensive overview of the current bacterial composition in your intestine.
Gut and mind: How irritable bowel and emotions are connected
However, the connection between the gut and the mind is not exclusively determined by intestinal bacteria. Sadness, fear and stress can also be caused by inflammatory reactions in the intestine: The ENS counteracts inflammatory processes by producing certain amino acids; the messenger substance tryptophan is needed for this. However, the body also needs tryptophane to produce serotonin. Subthreshold or undiscovered inflammations in the intestine can therefore also lead to a serotonin deficiency.Inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and the irritable bowel syndrome are therefore often associated with depressive moods, concentration problems or anxiety.
Not only does a stressed psyche result in gastro-intestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, flatulence or cramps – the gastro-intestinal complaints also affect the psyche. A visit to a doctor is highly recommended for these as well as for psychological complaints.
A balanced intestinal flora alleviates intestinal complaints
To restore the intestinal flora, a precise analysis of the causes of the imbalance is necessary. With INTEST.pro, BIOMES brings the first complete intestinal flora analysis to the market, which contains individual recommendations for increasing health, well-being and quality of life.
INTEST.pro is a self-test used to collect a stool sample in a familiar environment, which determines the microbial composition, i.e. the number and distribution of the intestinal bacteria.
The balance of the intestinal flora can be supported by taking probiotics or probiotic foods. You can find more information about this on our info page on probiotics.