Article Written by Carey Goldberg September 16, 2016
Could Your Gut Microbes Be Affecting How You Feel?
I’d just gotten used to the idea that I’m a walking mountain of microbes. The sizzling field of research into the microbiome — our full complement of bugs — is casting new light on our role as homes to the trillions of bacteria that inhabit each of us. At least most of them are friendly, I figured.
But now comes the next microbial shift in my self-image, courtesy of the new book “The Mind-Gut Connection.” My trillions of gut microbes, it seems, are in constant communication with my brain, and there’s mounting evidence that they may affect how I feel — not just physically but emotionally.
Does this mean — gulp — that maybe our bugs are driving the bus? I spoke with the book’s author, Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA, executive director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience and expert in brain-gut microbiome interactions. Edited excerpts:
So we’re not only packed with trillions of gut microbes but they’re in constant cross-talk with our brains — that’s the picture?
First of all, you have to realize that these are invisible creatures. So even though there are 100 trillion of them living in our gut, you wouldn’t be able to see them with the naked eye. It’s not like something tangible sitting inside of you, like another organ.
These minuscule creatures live in different parts of your gut, most of them sitting at the mucus layer that is just on top of your gut surface. That allows them to be just microns away from receptors and sensors with which your gut records the chatter that goes on between them and measures what goes on inside.