Is there a gut-brain connection?
Yes, it’s the vagus nerve.
Is the gut considered a “nervous system?”
Yes, it’s called the enteric nervous system. Both the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system were created out of the same tissue during fetal development.
Can gut bacteria (the good kind) help brain issues such as stress, anxiety or depression?
Yes! And Pubmed has the research to prove it! The authors concluded: “Together, these findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the bidirectional communication of the gut-brain axis and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.”
Here is another research piece that is technical but interesting regarding killing off good gut bacteria via antibiotics causing problems – “Likewise, the intriguing finding that long-term administration of common antibiotics for routine infections not only may favor PPA-producing bacteria but also may impair colonocyte function and directly inhibits gut carnitine transport, leading to an acquired mitochondrial encephalopathy, should certainly be investigated as a key factor in ASD (autism) regression.”
Where do we get the good gut bacteria to keep us happy and healthy and repopulate our gut after a course of antibiotics?
Kefir is a simply homemade culture similar to yogurt that anyone can do.
Here is my jar of kefir. It’s a wide mouth quart sized canning jar with paper towel on top instead of a lid. In the jar is 1 1/2 to 2 cups of milk. Just regular milk from the grocery store. I use 2%. And then there are 2 kefir grains placed inside. I bought mine from the Kefir Lady. I let the jar sit on my counter (room temperature) and every 24 hours I remove the kefir milk, make a smoothie with it and then replace fresh milk into the jar and put the kefir grains back in. Simple right!
Overnight, the kefir grains do their magic and create a yogurt type of drink. It’s thicker and sour. If I’m not in the mood for a smoothie, I strain the kefir in a couple of coffee filter and let the whey come out and have a nice cream cheese left in the filter!
It’s been a fun project and I want to try it with goat’s milk and also with coconut milk – both of which are suppose to work great!
But what is so healthy about kefir?
I found this source to help explain it:
“Yogurt and milk kefir contain different types of bacteria, each of which performs different tasks. The beneficial bacteria found in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria. This chart lists the bacteria strains found in each of our yogurt starters. The bacteria in milk kefir, on the other hand, can actually colonize the intestinal tract. Kefir also contains a lot larger range of bacteria, as well as yeasts. For more information, this article lists two researchers’ findings on the bacteria and yeast strains comprising milk kefir grains.”
I believe there are many more health benefits to good gut bacteria. Because your gut is open to the world on both ends, from mouth to anus, there is a large amount of your immune system dedicated to this area. It only seems like common sense that a healthy gut also equates to a healthy immune system.
It’s not out of reach to see how a healthy gut supporting your immune system can help improve allergies and reduce sickness too. The research articles mentioned in the beginning of this article and these type of connections to the immune system got me curious enough to try my own home experiment with kefir. And I can heartily recommend it!