The human microbiome includes trillions of microorganisms—viruses and bacteria—that live in and on us.
Is there really such a thing as good bacteria? Believe it or not, there is. They help us fight illness, they’re involved in digestion, they keep us healthy.
We know our mind can affect how our gut feels. (Ever get a “knot” in your stomach when you’re nervous?). You’d be surprised by how closely the mind and gut work together. So, what’s the connection?
Some gastrointestinal problems are caused by stress, anxiety and neurological disorders. Sometimes a gastrointestinal issue can cause or worsen stress or anxiety. Is it possible to change our gut to improve our mood?
Listen as host Mark Gomez, MD, and his guest, board-certified gastroenterologist Shivani Kiriluk, DO, discuss the gut-brain connection.
Myths vs. Facts
“There is a complex living ecosystem of microorganisms that lives in your intestine called the gut microbiota.” - Fact
“Your gut has capabilities that surpass those of all your other organs and even your brain.” – Hard to say
So many of our organs do amazing things, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
“Healthy gut flora can be restored.” – Fact
To some degree. Our microbiome is set in infancy, and as we get older we can damage it based on how we live. It can be somewhat restored by eating whole foods, fiber and exercising.
“Our human bodies might just be a vehicle for the microbes living in it. However, we are inseparable and dependent on each other for survival.” – Fact
Humans and microbes have co-evolved, and we are now more dependent on the microorganisms that are living in us than on our human DNA.
“When it comes to probiotic use, a greater number of colony-forming units (CFUs) always equates with enhanced effects.” – Myth
More is not always better. It’s like having too much fertilizer in your garden. There has to be some balance.
“You can increase your serotonin levels through medication and more natural options.” – Fact
We know low levels of serotonin in the brain can lead to depression, anxiety and sleep issues. Medication can help, but from a natural standpoint, light therapy, exercise, meditation and a healthy diet can also help boost serotonin.
“The modern diet is suspected to alter gut diversity and pre-empt neurodegenerative disease.” – Fact
The microbiome cannot afford to be dysregulated. The standard American diet (highly processed) is chock full of things that can have harmful effects on the human body.
“Multiple types of behavioral medicine treatments are available to people with GI disorders.” – Fact
There are pharmacological therapies that can help because there are neurotransmitters in the brain and in the gut. We like to call them gut-brain modulators. Cognitive behavioral therapy, imagery and hypnosis can also help gut-brain disorders. Life stressors cause physiological arousal in the gut.
“All fermented foods are probiotic foods”. – Myth
One example, beer, is fermented by yeast but the yeast is removed from the final product. Beer will not improve your gut microbiome.
“Fecal transplantation should be seen as a last option for patients with ongoing gut microbiome dysfunction.” – Depends
We have an indication it can help recurrent C.diff (Clostridioides difficile), but for other conditions we don’t have an indication yet. More studies are needed to see if it can be used for other conditions.
“Gut bacteria are involved in a host of immune and metabolic functions.” – Fact
Gut bacteria is involved in the way we metabolize food. There are certain foods we can’t digest without our bacteria. It’s involved in how we store fats and regulate our blood sugar levels. It also affects our mood.