Many of you have heard a more poignant form of this title and considered it an insult. In the context of how it was used, you were probably correct to do so. However, there is a nugget of truth to this name-calling. Research at facilities such as Texas Tech University and Ohio State University are looking at how the bacteria in our gut influences moods and behaviors in children.
This research doesn’t surprise those of us in the Integrative and Functional Medicine world. Daily, we recommend to parents that they remove artificial sweeteners, preservatives, dyes, and more from their children’s diets. Daily we encourage at least a decrease in sugars, if not a complete removal. Clinically, we find that many unwanted behaviors begin lessening soon after these changes. While these dietary changes are not a panacea and remain only part of a comprehensive therapy plan, they are a huge start towards positively impacting bacterial gut flora.
This recent research confirms our clinical experience. Prestigious research institutions are uncovering how different bacteria in our gut produce many of the same neurotransmitters as in our brain. Serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are all made by these bacteria. A recent study by OSU quotes one of its co-author’s, Dr. Michael Bailey, saying “Maybe kids who are more outgoing have fewer stress hormones impacting their gut than shy kids. Or maybe the bacteria are helping mitigate the production of stress hormones when the child encounters something new. It could be a combination of both.”
You may ask how a few bacteria can make such an impact? Well, consider that individual bacterial cells in your gut outnumber the human cells that make up your entire body. The bacterial cells are just smaller in size. Furthermore, in total, they can weigh a few pounds. Several studies over recent years have connected different undesirable mixes of gut bacteria to obesity, autism, vitamin deficiencies, Crohn’s disease, depression, and more.
These studies are not sideshows at the alternative circus, but large, mainstream studies. The National Institute for Mental Health, part of the National Institute of Health, funds several grants for research in this area. The US Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia is investing up to 14.5 million dollars into how gut flora affects stress responses. The respected science magazine, Nature, reported on this research in an October 14, 2015 online article. The list of findings continues in other journals.
So, what does this mean? For one thing, it means that fecal transplants, removing stool from one person and placing in the colon of another person is not only on the horizon but being used for resistant infections and studied for other diseases. For you, sitting in front of a computer, reading this… you may consider buying a Kombucha, eating some homemade yogurt, or popping down a doctor recommended probiotic capsule. At the least, you will never think of poop the same way again. Maybe you will actually thank someone if they say you have “poop for brains”.
This article does not replace diagnostic and therapeutic care by your physician. Please consult your physician before following advice presented in this article. This is for educational purposes only.