How to Fix Your Brain-Gut Connection: Anxiety and the Brain-Gut Microbiome Axis

The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipationdiarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are findingThese new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.” evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.Gastroenterologists may prescribe certain antidepressants for IBS, for example—not because they think the problem is all in a patient’s head, but because these medications calm symptoms in some cases by acting on nerve cells in the gut, Pasricha explains. “Psychological interventions like CBT may also help to “improve communications” between the big brain and the brain in our gut,” he says.Discovering how signals from the digestive system affect metabolism, raising or reducing risk for health conditions like type 2 diabetes. “This involves interactions between nerve signals, gut hormones and microbiota—the bacteria that live in the digestive system,” Pasricha says.