The mind-gut connection: What is it and how did it evolve?
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve noticed the connection between your brain and your gut. If you’ve ever felt queasy as you walked into an uncomfortable situation or based a life decision on a “gut feeling,” then you know that sometime our bodies react faster than our minds.
Digestion and emotion have long been treated separately in medicine and science, like dots far apart on a map. Despite the phrase “gut feeling” that implicitly connects the belly and the brain, the reality is that gut physiology, microbes, and the mind have all been studied independently. It’s why, when you walk into a doctor’s office complaining of both constipation and a low mood, you might have two different conversations and get two different prescriptions.
In his new book, The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health, gastroenterologist and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) professor of medicine Dr. Emeran Mayer starts to skillfully draw lines between these far-apart dots. Mayer uses the book to explain the different ways the gut and the brain communicate, emphasizing the nascent science on the important role played by the gut microbiota.
Mayer’s genuine curiosity about his patients led him into a career of research focused on the gut-brain axis. He took seriously the patients who came into his office with bizarre-sounding stories—sudden, unexplained vomiting in the mornings; extreme anxiety about toxic waste in the colon. The book is the product of his lifelong drive to find out more.
Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome, Mayer has written a practical guide in the tradition of The Second Brain, and The Good Gut, that conclusively demonstrates the inextricable, biological link between mind and the digestive system.
The book is essentially divided into three sections:
Recommendations are offered in a final chapter; some are based on evidence and others (like eating organically grown foods) seem to feature distinctly Californian concerns. But all of the exhortations resonate—for example, “enjoy meals together” is a good reminder to today’s fast-living families.
The Mind-Gut Connection also describes:
With a simple, practical regimen drawn from the latest research, Dr. Mayer shows us that paying attention to the mind-gut balance is the key to unlocking vibrant health.