Microbes can incredibly play games with our mind!
In a neuroscience experiment, 22 men were given the same pill for 4 weeks, getting the same result: they felt less stressed and their memories were sharper. Those pills were not a precise chemical formula synthesized by the pharmaceutical industry, but they were brimming with bacteria.
Our body is full with bacteria (vaginal flora, intestinal flora….) that live within us, giving enormous benefits to our body. Recent studies found out that they are possibly working more than just keeping our bodies healthy: they may be changing our minds. If it’s true, can we soothe our brains by cultivating our bacteria?
Because gut bacteria can make the very chemicals that brain cells use to communicate, the idea of eating specific kinds o bacteria to change brain activity and ease anxiety makes a certain amount of sense. The wrong microbes, however, might lead to opposite effects.
Bacteria that make brain chemicals:
- Bacillus: dopamine, norepinephrine
- Bifido-bacterium: GABA
- Enterococcus: serotonin
- Escherichia: serotonin, norepinephrine
- Lactobacillus: acetylcholine, GABA
- Streptococcus: serotonin
Consider that human and bacterial cells evolved together, adapting into a harmonious ecosystem. It’s a sort of exchange: we control and are essential for them and the way round. It’s a sort of conversation that our body constantly has with our microbiome.
Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, scientists know that bacteria in the gut and cells in the brain communicate by signals that move along the vagus nerve and also by chemical messangers, such as serotonin and other molecules that travel via the immune system.
How can we positively manipulate our microbiome in order to be healthier?
- Eating prebiotic food (fiber, garlic, asparagus…), yogurt and kefir is the easiest way. Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food!
- Combating stress. The researchers suspect that the microbiome is also altered by meditation.
The question is: if the microbiome affect our mind, and our mind affect our microbiome: who is in charge then?