Your gut is another word for your stomach. The English language is rife with gut idioms. “To spill your guts” is to tell your personal secrets. “To hate someone’s guts” means you passionately hate someone. “To bust your gut” is to laugh a lot. One of the most common meanings for ‘gut’ is your true self, your wiser self, your inner self. “Trust your gut” is common advice that means trust you inner voice. Trust your intuition. A ‘gut feeling’ or a ‘gut reaction’ is a feeling or reaction that is deeper and wiser than our conscious minds.
Our bodies are crawling inside and out with microbes. In fact the number of microbial cells on and in you right now outnumber your human cells 10 to 1. And the biggest concentration of these microbes is in your gut.
Scientists are starting to think there could be a direct connection between our guts and our minds. We have long known that microbes can help our bodies fight infections, but some researchers are now looking into the connection between gut microbes and changes in our brain.
Dr. Emeran Mayer did research on the stomachs and brains of 65 people and found a connection with the dominant gut microbes and the structure of their brains. He thinks that it’s possible that the type of microbes in our guts might not be just shaping our brains, but also our mood, behavior and feelings.
Stephen Collins, a researcher from McMaster University, used mice to investigate the brain gut connection. He took the dominant microbes found in shy mice and introduced them into the guts of fearless mice. He also tried this experiment in reverse, by introducing the microbes from the fearless mice into the guts of the shy mice. In both cases, he found that the personality and behavior of the mice changed. The previously shy mice became more active and the previously fearless mice became more quiet and shy.
Research into the mind gut connection is still young, but in the future, we may find that many problems from depression to anxiety to autism can be cured by inviting the correct microbes into our stomachs. Perhaps one day, modern medicine will accept that food is truly medicine. Imagine a future where your doctor gives you foods rich in healthy microbes, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and natto, to heal not only your body, but also your mind.
“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
-Hippocrates (Ancient Greek Physician)