10

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The Neuroscience of the Gut: The brain is shaped by bacteria in the digestive tract

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM

So says a Scientific American article April 19, 2011 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-neuroscience-of-gut

People may advise you to listen to your gut instincts: now research suggests that your gut may have more impact on your thoughts than you ever realized. Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Genome Institute of Singapore led by Sven Pettersson recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that normal gut flora, the bacteria that inhabit our intestines, have a significant impact on brain development and subsequent adult behavior.

Does what you eat influence how you think? If your gut flora is out of sorts, does this affect how you think?

Do you think that eating paleo now is affecting how you think? Have you seen any changes in your thinking processes comparing your pre-paleo to after paleo eating? Better or worse or no change?

A4d49e0dbea9544eb2f86624e2adc7fd

(172)

on May 22, 2011
at 02:18 AM

Hurry up the Quilt, I need more information! :)

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 05:02 PM

Continued: So it would be great if you could explain what the fog is like in full detail. Instead of just calling it a mental fog, perhaps you could be more detailed? What's going on? Can't perform addition as fast as you used to? Can't remember things as well? Forgetting people's names? Not as creative anymore? Not very observant? Can't remember where you left your jacket? Having trouble going to bed on time? Can't control your emotions? Irrational fear and anxiety wrecking your social life? Harder to picture something in your mind? Or what? A detailed account would be useful for both of us.

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 04:59 PM

Continued: Perhaps you could give a more detailed account of your brain fog? I left the fog many years ago, and I can't seem to remember exactly what it was like. I don't really know. It's a cached thought at this point. All I know is that my past self of the day the fog really seemed to lift called it a "mental fog", and claimed it to have lifted. I really don't know anything else. I'm just remembering words at this point. Perhaps I could get a better idea if I think more, and I will try that, but yeah. For now, I'm not sure what I'm talking about.

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 04:56 PM

@Rud: Eliminating the junk food was all I needed to leave the fog behind. Every other lifestyle change I made for the better seemed not to get rid of some sort of fog, but instead simply increase my already clear-headed mental ability. But maybe there's no distinction there. I don't know. Do you still eat any junk food? Soda? Chips? Refined sugar? Anything? Again, all I needed to escape the fog was to get rid of the junk food once and for all.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 03:41 PM

correct........I will make sure my points are not lost in how I convey them.

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 20, 2011
at 03:29 PM

Basically what Taubes did with the consumer version of GCBC in WHY WE GET FAT: AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. http://www.garytaubes.com/writing/books/why-get-fat/

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 20, 2011
at 03:12 PM

Basically what Gary Taubes did in the consumer edition of GCBC. Why we get fat?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:46 PM

Dexter you know just how high this is gonna be on my levee list so you know I upped it. I want to say something about it.......but very soon I will be ready too. Thanks for your input. I'm rewriting the entire treatise based upon the feedback I got. I'm gonna make it more for the lay public and hit the science in the other ways

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one.........

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one........

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one.......

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one........

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 20, 2011
at 03:28 AM

This is a good question, people in our society don't realize how much diet and the gut have on mood and brain function. People in our society are far more emotionally weak, irritable and even "dumb" than ever IMO

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:11 AM

i agree w/ yr assessment of possible decrease in avg IQ of the population, and also, even more wholeheartedly, in the phrase: EPIC CHANGE vis-a-vis eating better. YAY

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 20, 2011
at 12:16 AM

Thanks, thought I had but no. Fixed

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:57 PM

this is my favorite subject! here's the same link, working... http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-neuroscience-of-gut -- (@dex, you may want to edit the OP link, you've got 2-in-1)

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:48 PM

Eliminating gluten from my diet three years ago did the trick for me. I thought brain fog was a by-product of aging but, boy, was I wrong. It was so nice to think clearly again. Eating paleo and working on eliminating most sugar has helped even more.

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:40 PM

AC will be along. Stop eating the wheat products and sugar products which will heal your gut. And eat lots of fats and meat and some sweetpotatos/yams eggs, fatty meats, some bacon, avocados, coconut oil, no soybean oil, no canola oil, no safflower oil...eat leafy greens salads with copious amounts of olive oil and vinegar, steamed veggies with copious amounts of melted butter. These will help eliminate the brain fog. Takes longer for some folks.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:35 PM

what was it in particular that lifted your fog. What specifically in paleo dieting helped the most? Anything that you did that most people may not know. Please, I'm one of those people who needs to get out of brain fog.

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6 Answers

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2
6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 19, 2011
at 11:25 PM

Yes. For me, every step away from the problems of modern society to a paleo or traditional approach yields a significant increase in my mental strength and endurance. You're not simply born with a level of intelligence; you can change it.

Holy shit, I still remember the mental fog that lifted back many years ago when I stopped eating junk food once and for all. My intelligence sky-rocketed around that time. It's hard to believe that so many people live in that fog, but then again I guess all around me I see the horrible effects of that fuzzy thinking.

It's a tough problem because in general, it's one's mental ability that must save one's mental ability. That's why for most people, I refer to eating junk food as being "in the hole". It's a vicious circle. Get dumber, eat more shit. And eat more shit, get dumber. The one enforces the other. Or more charitably, fall deeper into that mental fog, make worse lifestyle decisions, and make more lifestyle decisions, fall deeper into that mental fog.

I escaped from the hole many years ago, and it was a harrowing journey. It still is in some ways. I just feel sorry for the people who are still trapped in the hole. Years of my life have been consumed with trying to climb out, and often it wasn't very fun. It was extremely difficult and at times almost destroyed me. I'm glad I'm out at this point, and in the future, I would like to be of some help to other people like my past self of many years ago. If I had somebody who had already escaped to help me, it would have been so much easier.

Am I getting off-topic? I don't think so. Or maybe I am. Either way, yes yes YES. Eating paleo or whatever influences how I think. I have seen changes in my thinking processes. The change was for the better. Ridiculously better in fact. An epic change. But maybe what I was saying about the vicious circle and stuff was a tangent. Either way, it was an important tangent. Perhaps it will add something to the discussion of how paleo affects thinking.

Sometimes I wonder whether the average intelligence of people back 100 years ago was more than it is today. I can't imagine that it wasn't. Looking around at the people of today, holy shit it's embarrassing. And the junk food seems to be a significant culprit. Maybe 100 years ago it was more common to believe in something crazy and unscientific, but that seems more related to the knowledge base than the raw intelligence of the population. But perhaps there's been a net increase when it comes to knowledge and applying that knowledge? Yeah, I guess it would be pretty crazy to doubt that.

I'm in a virtuous circle right now. My lifestyle improves, my mental ability increases. And my mental ability increases, my lifestyle improves. I'm out of the hole, and I don't expect to ever fall back in. I eat absolutely no junk food ever, and I don't anticipate that to change ever. And a lot of other stuff. A good lifestyle isn't just eating clean. It's also recognizing how crazy everything else is too. Shampoo, running shoes, etc. All ridiculous. All destructive. At least for most people's utility functions, that is.

Perhaps there's a revolution going on. I hope so. We need to help civilization get out of the vicious circle and into the virtuous one before it's simply too late.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one.........

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:48 PM

Eliminating gluten from my diet three years ago did the trick for me. I thought brain fog was a by-product of aging but, boy, was I wrong. It was so nice to think clearly again. Eating paleo and working on eliminating most sugar has helped even more.

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 05:02 PM

Continued: So it would be great if you could explain what the fog is like in full detail. Instead of just calling it a mental fog, perhaps you could be more detailed? What's going on? Can't perform addition as fast as you used to? Can't remember things as well? Forgetting people's names? Not as creative anymore? Not very observant? Can't remember where you left your jacket? Having trouble going to bed on time? Can't control your emotions? Irrational fear and anxiety wrecking your social life? Harder to picture something in your mind? Or what? A detailed account would be useful for both of us.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:35 PM

what was it in particular that lifted your fog. What specifically in paleo dieting helped the most? Anything that you did that most people may not know. Please, I'm one of those people who needs to get out of brain fog.

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 04:59 PM

Continued: Perhaps you could give a more detailed account of your brain fog? I left the fog many years ago, and I can't seem to remember exactly what it was like. I don't really know. It's a cached thought at this point. All I know is that my past self of the day the fog really seemed to lift called it a "mental fog", and claimed it to have lifted. I really don't know anything else. I'm just remembering words at this point. Perhaps I could get a better idea if I think more, and I will try that, but yeah. For now, I'm not sure what I'm talking about.

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 19, 2011
at 11:40 PM

AC will be along. Stop eating the wheat products and sugar products which will heal your gut. And eat lots of fats and meat and some sweetpotatos/yams eggs, fatty meats, some bacon, avocados, coconut oil, no soybean oil, no canola oil, no safflower oil...eat leafy greens salads with copious amounts of olive oil and vinegar, steamed veggies with copious amounts of melted butter. These will help eliminate the brain fog. Takes longer for some folks.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:11 AM

i agree w/ yr assessment of possible decrease in avg IQ of the population, and also, even more wholeheartedly, in the phrase: EPIC CHANGE vis-a-vis eating better. YAY

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on May 20, 2011
at 04:56 PM

@Rud: Eliminating the junk food was all I needed to leave the fog behind. Every other lifestyle change I made for the better seemed not to get rid of some sort of fog, but instead simply increase my already clear-headed mental ability. But maybe there's no distinction there. I don't know. Do you still eat any junk food? Soda? Chips? Refined sugar? Anything? Again, all I needed to escape the fog was to get rid of the junk food once and for all.

4
3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

on May 20, 2011
at 04:11 AM

I think Robb Wolf is right. I was never clinically depressed but I've had some bluish mornings before I went on a low-carb/Paleolithic diet. I don't feel that way anymore.

Now that I think, those bluish moods tended to come on after I had a carb-heavy dinner the nigh before (usually late nights) ... it made you instantly tired and lethargic, and I ended up with no energy. And mentally you became tired, too. I'm not sure if you can call that being depressed but I was surely less energetic!

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one........

3
Cf626d3fba66c18297b3f1116a920e58

(3417)

on May 20, 2011
at 03:46 AM

Paleo helped with some inexplicable depression issues I'd had on and off for a few years, helped so much that I forgot what it was even like being in that state. I'm alert, absurdly so by my pre-Paleo standard of falling right the hell asleep when the whim struck me, but never at night, of course, when I actually wanted to sleep. I actually have the desire to get up and be active now. NEVER in my life was there ever a time when I thought something outside would sound like a better idea than video games. 80% of the time, that's the case now -- sorry Paleo, you'll never take my NES away from me. When I see a tree, I want to be thirty feet up it. When I see monkey bars, I plan on how to scare the kids away so the big boy can play.

Blah, blah, blah, and so on. Long story short, something about my lifestyle change has had an enduring effect on my desire to carpe the proverbial diem and embrace a much broader spectrum of interests and activities. I wouldn't trade it for the world, let alone a slice of tasteless bread.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one........

3
559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 20, 2011
at 12:55 AM

I definitely get freaky brain reactions to foods. I started figuring it out when I quit eating gluten last year -- crippling and worsening brain-fog and seemingly intractable mood problems that I had for many long, exhausting years are TOTALLY GONE, as long as I'm careful.

I was shocked, i mean SHOCKED at the difference! I don't experiment with gluten much anymore, but I have had unexpected trouble with other foods in the months since I quit it. It took me a long time to figure out, but it turns out that I react to many foods that have been fermented, and also aged cheeses. I mean who would blame near-suicidal despair and utter inability to concentrate on delicious kombucha? or kimchi? or cambozola cheese (my favorite)? ME! Believe me, I didn't want to. But eventually it became clear - through careful (and painful) eliminations/trials etc.

Interestingly, aside from glutenous grains the stuff I react most to almost always contains LIVE ORGANISMS, and such organisms are similar to those populating our guts, and this gut microbiota is increasingly being linked to MOOD and even PERSONALITY. WTF! It's an amazing, and kind of terrifying, thing.

Please enjoy this podcast if you haven't already: http://thehealthyskeptic.org/the-healthy-skeptic-podcast-episode-9

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 20, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Plus one.......

2
C1fb8666b1ae085507a76a4c494e4f0a

on May 20, 2011
at 03:18 PM

It was mainly gluten for me. I didn't even realize that I had a low-level depression... just thought it was my normal. And the 'black' moods I'd get in to, I just chalked that up to some sort of psychological issue I must have had.

About maybe 3 weeks to a month of strictly avoiding gluten, it shifted. I was making tea, and suddenly got this insane rush of euphoria... what I can only describe, really, as joy. It was like my brain suddenly released a ton of seratonin, etc. (If I were spiritually/religiously inclined, I'd describe it as feeling as if god/the universe/whatever had entered my heart!)

Since then... no black moods, no depression, no anxiety, nothing. I was able, with ease, to do some things that previously I'd wanted to do but was anxious about or worried... like starting improv classes/performing again, taking on new challenges business-wise, that sort of thing. I'd always felt like there was something, mentally, that was holding me back from doing what I wanted to do, and I had no idea what it was. Just felt like a mental/emotional block. Uncovering my gluten issue literally changed my whole life, because (in part) it changed my brain.

While I'd also gone low carb/lacto-paleo at the same time, my sister had almost the same experience when she quit gluten as well... hers she described as 'a heavy blanket lifted off of my brain and everything looked different... better'. She'd always been depressive as well... hasn't been since.

1
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on May 20, 2011
at 11:52 PM

It is also possible that the bacteria in your gut can be shaped by your brain.

Stress in young rhesus monkeys, and even in the prenatal period, can lead to a significant reduction in the levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria shed in the stool. In rodents, phsycological stress can result in a significant overgrowth of aerobic microbiota, particularly Gram-negative aerobes, in the intestines. link.

Another small study on college students found that during periods of exam stress the numbers of good lactic acid bacteria were reduced. link

So if your thinking is out of sorts it may negatively impact your gut flora.

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