Intestinal Disorders and Mental Health

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Filed Under: Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 04/11/2014

Intestinal Disorders and Mental Health

More and more research is linking our mental health to the health of our gut. Depression and our overall mental well-being can now be directly linked to intestinal disorders.

Our “second brain” is the enteric nervous system (ENS) that controls and regulates our intestinal tract. The ENS senses environmental threats, just like our eyes, nose, skin, etc., and reports this information to the brain. The vagus nerve, which is part of the ENS, is the longest cranial nerve and has the widest distribution of any nerve in the body. It connects the intestinal tract with the brain. And 90 percent of all the signals passing along this nerve are traveling from the gut to the brain, not from the brain downward.

Intestinal Disorders Linked to Depression

The ENS also produces numerous hormones and about 40 different neurotransmitters of the exact same type found in the brain. In fact, 95 percent of all the serotonin found in the body at any one time is in the ENS. It is generally thought that the serotonin produced in the ENS can reach the brain because of the blood/brain barrier, but that is being questioned now. It has been well established, however, that the nerve signals from the gut to the brain, passing along the vagus nerve, do affect our mood. Stimulating the vagus nerve has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression.

The strong connection between the nervous system in our gut and brain undoubtedly is one of the contributing reasons depression rates are so high.

Intestinal disorders are more common than ever. If you have problems with depression, it’s imperative that you re-establish and maintain the proper bacterial flora in your gastrointestinal tract. I can’t stress this enough.

If your ENS is constantly bombarding your brain with signals related to stress, disease, damage and toxicity, then you will experience depression, anxiety and other psychological issues. Keep in mind that the research shows that your gut and brain are constantly communicating. And even though you aren’t conscious of what’s being “said,” it directly affects your overall mental health and well-being.

If you haven’t already, start taking a good probiotic and increase your intake of live, fermented foods to avoid intestinal disorders. 

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Now It's Your Turn: Once you made digestive health a priority, what health benefits of probiotics did you see?

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