Mayer thinks the bacteria in our digestive systems may help mold brain structure as we’re growing up, and possibly influence our moods, behavior and feelings when we’re adults. “It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease,” he says.
So Mayer is working on just that, doing MRI scans to look at the brains of thousands of volunteers and then comparing brain structure to the types of bacteria in their guts. He thinks he already has the first clues of a connection, from an analysis of about 60 volunteers.
Mayer found that the connections between brain regions differed depending on which species of bacteria dominated a person’s gut. That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine what kinds of brains we have — how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired. […]
But other researchers have been trying to figure out a possible connection by looking at gut microbes in mice. There they’ve found changes in both brain chemistry and behavior. One experiment involved replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice.
“The mice became less anxious, more gregarious,” says Stephen Collins of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who led a team that conducted the research.
It worked the other way around, too — bold mice became timid when they got the microbes of anxious ones. And aggressive mice calmed down when the scientists altered their microbes by changing their diet, feeding them probiotics or dosing them with antibiotics.
To find out what might be causing the behavior changes, Collins and his colleagues then measured brain chemistry in mice. They found changes in a part of the brain involved in emotion and mood, including increases in a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which plays a role in learning and memory.
Pretty interesting, huh?
I began noticing the effect myself back when I was doing lots of raw milk, kefir, kombucha and other fermented foods. At the time, I chalked it up to dense nutrition. After all, milk and its derivatives are complete whole foods with nutrients in a more-or-less proper balance to one another for growing mammals in general.
Then, of course, I got into the whole resistant starch thing (pre-biotics that nourish the gut), and the brain and mood effects were even more profound, such that I no longer felt a particular need to engage almost all commenters, would just delete offending comments to avoid conflict altogether, or would just yawn and let things slide.
For me, it was an unmistakable calming. It’s not that things don’t piss me off, or that I don’t get outraged. I just tend to react differently or not react at all. In the past, I might go off on some idiot in comments, but really from an angry perspective. Now, if I do that, it’s more from a “cheeky” or “schtick-y” motivation and I can easily let it go.
And perhaps the thing that most makes me believe I’m not just fooling myself is the brain activity I have no “control” over. I’m speaking of vivid dreaming. So many people have reported this, and it’s usually at the very outset of supplemental dosing of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch (many of us have been taking 1-4 Tablespoons per day, mixed in either cold food or drink—heat destroys the properties of RS). Probably that’s when the difference in dreaming is the most stark and obvious. Now, after months, I’m not waking up every morning and going “wow, what awesome, vivid, complex dreams!” So either it has just all settled out, or I’m just used to that as the norm, now. Not altogether sure. Yawn. I’ll just let it go and live the mystery. See?
Alright, now you MUST watch this 5-minute, awesomely animated video that very nicely explains all things human biome. Note also the stuff about various places they reside on the skin and scalp, making my no soap or shampoo (water only) regime for over four years now seem not so crazy, after all.