EMOTIONS AND INTESTINES
Until very recently, we took for granted that experiences directly impacted our brains and
considered the emotional response to that experience as a mental process. It is now known that
the first emotional response to an experience is actually a “gut” response, confirming what
language already seemed to know: knots in the stomach, butterflies in the gut, kicks in the liver.
In other words, we are all more or less clear that psychological states influence metabolism and
digestive processes and can alter our microbiota; what is new and surprising to us is that, in
turn, the state of our digestive system affects brain function. Today several studies (some of
them published by the prestigious “The Journal of Clinical Investigation” document the
possibility that the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria within our intestines
largely modulates our behavior and mood.
The intestinal brain, like the one located in the head, is a warehouse that produces all kinds of
psychoactive substances. 90% of the happiness hormone, serotonin, is produced and
stored in our intestines, as is 50% of dopamine, the motivational neurotransmitter.
Recent research has also shown that the intestine synthesizes endogenous
benzodiazepines, chemical compounds with a tranquilizing effect used in the manufacture of
anxiolytic drugs (diazepam). In addition, it so happens that the serotonin precursor –
tryptophan- is regulated exclusively by intestinal bacteria. Tryptophan is an essential
amino acid, that is, it is not synthesized by our body and we can only get it through food and it
fulfills very important functions, among them, the best known are those related to the nervous
system since it exerts a powerful calming effect. Stabilizes mood and fights anxiety, depression
and sleep disorders.
Research by Dr. Campioli at the University of Modena in Italy concluded that it is possible to
regulate the concentration of these compounds in the blood, simply by supplementing the diet
with probiotics and prebiotics.
The great enemies of tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin, are sugars and refined
flours that feed the harmful bacteria in our microbiota and some fungi that kill beneficial
bacteria. Again, food as a treatment and cure: by eliminating or reducing the consumption of
industrialized products, we ensure a good natural production of serotonin by our guts.
Constipation, for example, is directly related to a lack of serotonin, this lack at the brain level
causes decay and pessimism, and at the intestinal level it limits muscle motility. Those people
who, on the other hand, suffer from diarrhea or irritable bowel instead of suffering from apathy
are more prone to anxiety or panic attacks.
Professor Michael Gerson, head of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Columbia
University and known as the father of the new scientific discipline called
neurogastroenterology, and author of the book The Second Brain, states: “The enteric nervous
system is a vast chemical storehouse in which each and every class of neurotransmitters
operating in our brains is represented, and the multiplicity of neurotransmitters in the
intestines suggests that the language spoken by the cells of the abdominal nervous
system it is as rich and complex as that of the brain. ”
The exposed data speak for themselves, however, the vast majority of psychiatrists in
conventional medicine continue to cling to the simplistic scheme that considers the brain as the
great central computer, and therefore treat mental disorders and all cognitive disorders as
“breakdowns” in that device, completely ignoring these studies and research on the intestine.
Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard University and
emeritus professor of psychology at the Universities of Plymouth, in the United Kingdom, and
Connecticut, in the United States, jumped onto the networks back in 2002 with an article
incendiary entitled “The Emperor’s New Drugs”, in which he naturally and argumentatively
recounted the manipulation of data that led to the approval of the marketing of such famous
antidepressants and anxiolytics as “Prozac” or “Paxil”. Kirsch then continued his research with
concrete data and rigor and wrote a book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the
Antidepressant Myth, through which he questions the biological and reductionist vision of
mental illness and the “sacred” medical practice from which until now has been addressed.
When the field of vision is opened, leaving behind prejudices and immovable truths, the light
appears, perhaps one day we will be able to generate remedies for our disorders from within,
maintaining a varied and balanced microbiota, without the need to resort to addictive drugs,
loaded of side effects.
Marisia Jiménez, N.D.
Based in Camila Rowlands’ book