Food and Feelings: The Effects of Gut Microflora on our brains and babies

Thank you for all your kind emails. I get so amped up and totally inspired by all your questions. I try my very best to answer each one, but these days it's been tough. I'm a bit run off my feet getting my midwifery practice re-established, buying my first house and trying to find some time for a social life..maybe even a love life too (?) 

Still trying to find time for a little bit of ski time paleo friendly sandwich during this ski day had fermented pickles in in :) 

Still trying to find time for a little bit of ski time paleo friendly sandwich during this ski day had fermented pickles in in :) 

With this insane schedule, I've had to work hard to keep myself healthy. Recently I've added fermented foods into my daily routine. I'm happy to report that I've noticed big changes in my immune function, gut health and even my mental wellbeing.  I've been consuming daily doses of Kombucha, kimchi and raw kraut and find that my body just can't get enough of this good stuff!   I firmly believe in the amazing power of probiotics and am fascinated by all the kick-ass research coming out about the effects of gut micobotics on both our physical and emotional selves.  

 In a spontaneous moment of nerdy pleasure this week, I came across a recent journal article that looks at a phenomenon called "developmental programming". This fascinating theory explores how environmental influences early in an organisms development affect an organism's later structure, and function. More specifically, this theory examines the effects of gut microflora and early colonization on human development. Most of the early data indicates that gut microbiota may have systemic effects on liver function. This raising the possibility that gut microbiota can and most likely does, have developmental effects in other organs elsewhere in the the human brain.

How does bacteria get into our guts in the first place?

Good question! I'm glad I asked :) 

Before we are born, our guts are sterile, a.k.a free of all bacteria. It is the process of birth that starts the colonization process.  A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal  found that the mode of delivery significantly impacts the types of bacteria found in our guts. For example, babies born vaginally have significantly more of the health promoting Escherichia-Shigella and Bacteroides species while babies born by c-section have significantly more c.difficile bacteria. C. difficile is associated with increased risk of asthma, obesity and type 1 diabetes.

So how does this affect our brains if the bacteria is in our bums?

The human brain is suceptible to cues from both internal and external sources especially during the period of  infancy when it undergoes most of it's growth and development. Some studies have indicated that there is a possible link between common neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and microbial pathogen infections during the perinatal period. Animal studies have show that exposure to microbial pathogens during early developmental periods result in behavioral abnormalities, including anxiety-like behavior and impaired cognitive function. Interesting stuff! 

I'm no microbiologist...but this is pretty cool

I'm no microbiologist...but this is pretty cool

Our bellies are filled with neurotransmitter receptors for tryptophan, serotonin and GABA (AKA all the feel good chemicals) ...just like our brains. This is the reason that the gut is often called our "second brain".  So if these neurotransmitter receptors exist in our does the health of our bellies and bacteria that colonize our guts effect our happiness?? 

Well....cliffhanger...I don't have all the answers..but it would stand to reason that if our guts help produce many of the chemical compounds that affect mood patterns in the brain, it could significantly contribute to our overall happiness and wellbeing. Perhaps overly simplified...but hey...simple is good. I'm so pumped to learn more about the science behind this all. 

" Oh man...I had to have a c-section. Does this mean my baby is at risk? "

Paleo Mama's, if you required a c-section for medical reasons don't play the blame game! Mama guilt is the worst....fear not....these things can be fixed and here are a few good places to start: 



Bio Gaia - From a swedish company, this baby friendly probiotic will help support the development of beneficial bacteria in your babies little belly. 

Therbiotic Infant- Another great probiotic formula that can help optimize an infants gut colonization.

Breastfeed- Breastfed babies are have greater colonies of good bacteria. Breastmilk contains natural probiotics in addition to  large amounts of prebiotic oligosaccharides. Preboitics help support the healthy growth of beneficial bacteria in the belly. 

Further Reading:

Human Microbiome Project 

Daily Beast Article 

Chris Kresser Podcast Episode