Bigger brain, smaller gut, but still critical
This post contains science!
Oh, my. I began drafting this last night and immediately diverged into philosophical issues of free will and determinism. It was already long enough before I’d even got started on the sciency and practical. So I decided to save that as a draft for a later post on that topic alone, and just get right to the brief point.
Here’s the deal. I began a dietary intervention almost 6 weeks ago, now, where I consume mostly, exclusively, whole raw milk & kefir I ferment myself from same. The 5 weeks of updates are available only to newsletter subscribers (free) for now. Sign up here and after confirming, you should get a “welcome” email within a hour with links to all the issues.
I guess it was sometime during week 2 that I began to notice bizarre behavior changes, automatic emotional reactions, that sort of thing. Bizarre because these changes seemed to all be “positive” ones from a social context. I just became nicer to people, for lack of a better description (when deserved—there’s a few out there who don’t, especially when they crap on my friends). I stopped automatically spooling up my own comment threads into a frenzy, cut down on some of the invective in posts, and most weirdly of all, found myself initiating conversations with strangers over at the swim club—even for, GASP! banal small talk. You could ask my wife. She laughs at how I will typically just go into a catatonic trance at some party where people start talking boring shit. I can hear noise, but I have no idea what anyone is saying.
I chalked it up to what I consider the whole, integrated nutrition of the quintessential mammalian perfect whole food: milk. Whole, good, complete nutrition, your brain is getting everything it needs and behaves as your neural network got set up to behave in general. Yes, there’s what I call a “range of free will” (that’s what I immediately jumped on in the last draft) but behavior and emotional reactions also have a deterministic “component,” or, starting point. For example, you behave and react differently—automatically—when tired and fatigued vs. when alert and chipper. Or, when you’ve just had a major success in life vs. a disappointment or important loss (such as a friend or family death).
Then Dr. Greg Venning sent me this new study, in humans: Consumption of Fermented Milk Product with Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity.
BACKGROUND & AIMS:
Changes in gut microbiota have been reported to alter signaling mechanisms, emotional behavior, and visceral nociceptive reflexes in rodents. However, alteration of the intestinal microbiota with antibiotics or probiotics has not been shown to produce these changes in humans. We investigated whether consumption of a fermented milk product with probiotic (FMPP) for 4 weeks by healthy women altered brain intrinsic connectivity or responses to emotional attention tasks.
Healthy women with no gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms were randomly assigned to groups given FMPP (n=12), a non-fermented milk product (n=11, controls), or no intervention (n=13) twice daily for 4 weeks. The FMPP contained Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp. Lactis. Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after the intervention, to measure brain response to an emotional faces attention task and resting brain activity. Multivariate and region of interest analyses were performed.
FMPP intake was associated with reduced task-related response of a distributed functional network (49% crossblock covariance; P =.004) containing affective, viscerosensory, and somatosensory cortices. Alterations in intrinsic activity of resting brain indicated that ingestion of FMPP was associated with changes in midbrain connectivity, which could explain the observed differences in activity during the task.
Four weeks intake of a FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.
Well I’ll be damned. I don’t often post studies and abstracts but this was just too good to ignore, and it’s new. But here was the problem. I couldn’t really tell on the face of the abstract what these effects were, as in good or bad.
The trial lasted four weeks. After analyzing their data, researchers found that the consumption of the fermented milk product was associated with some significant changes in the brain.
They noticed that the fermented milk intervention led to activity reductions in areas of the brain that deal with sensation. In addition, the fermented milk ingestion was associated with connectivity changes when the brain was at rest. This is significant because, according to the researchers, “The resting state brain networks provide functional ‘templates’ with which the brain can rapidly respond to changes in the environment.”
Furthermore, the resting state connectivity can be predictive of pain modulation, suggesting a broader role for this part of the brain with regard to pain vulnerability. This critical information can provide new avenues for the treatment of pain and other stress responses in the body.
I’ll add that near as I can tell, kefir is 10-20 times more probiotic than yogurt. Also, I have taken probiotics in pill form before and never noticed anything much, if at all. I’m sticking with kefir. Love the taste (and I mix things up by sometimes mixing it with milk in different proportions).
Anyway, there’s still another dot to connect. Those who subscribe to the newsletter already know about the 1972 book I referenced the other day. While it’s predominantly about adverse mental issues having to do with diets too low or two high in carbohydrate, there’s also one case study about compromised gut bacteria doing the same thing. In 1972.
So that’s my next post on this topic and it’ll be pretty extensive, since the book is out of print and looks like, via the newsletter, I’ve created a bit of a run on the copies available from used sellers.