February is the month we honor the meaningful relationships in our lives. We buy flowers and chocolates and search “google” for that perfect restaurant to enjoy the pleasures of an amazing meal while staring into the eyes of the person we love. We realize that not only is the taste and quality of the food important, but also that the mix of lighting, sound, ambiance, and atmosphere all combine to create an environment conducive to the feelings of warmth and wellbeing from the rush of endorphins that will soon flood our brain and nervous system. Nurturing those meaningful relationships makes us feel good…….
Nurturing our relationship with our other life partner, our microbiome, makes us feel good too. It’s common knowledge that our diet largely dictates the health of our microbiome, but other factors such as lifestyle and stress contribute to eubiosis vs dysbiosis. When we are under emotional stress, the stress hormone norepinephrine has been shown to increase the growth of pathogenic bacteria in our gut which acts as a feedback loop to our brains. The routes of communication between the microbiota and brain are slowly being unravelled, and include the vagus nerve, gut hormone signaling, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, and microbial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids.
Gut bacteria directly stimulate afferent neurons of the enteric nervous system to send signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. Through these varied mechanisms, gut microbes shape the architecture of sleep and stress reactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. They influence memory, mood, and cognition and are clinically and therapeutically relevant to a range of disorders… https://www.ncbi.
nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC4259177/. Leo Galland, M.D.
Leo Galland, M.D. also writes the following in the above paper referenced: The gut microbiome orchestrates human metabolism, immunity, and gene expression…the hundred trillion bacteria in the body of an adult human contain about 4 million distinct bacterial genes, with more than 95% of them located in the large intestine. Since most of these genes encode for enzymes and structural proteins that influence the functioning of mammalian cells, the gut microbiome can be viewed as an anaerobic bioreactor programmed to synthesize molecules which direct the mammalian immune system, modify the mammalian epigenome, and regulate host metabolism.
When our microbiome is unhealthy and unbalanced, it sets the stage for disease and mood disorders to develop. The graph below is a simplistic illustration of the impact of food on dysbiosis.
In summary, the health of our life partner, our microbiome, influences our mood and our immune system. Everything is connected and in the words of the famous environmental philosopher John Muir: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
For those interested in sharing information about the microbiome to patients or friends/family, the following free webinar is starting Wednesday, February 13.
Happy Valentine’s Day….