Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a gut check for many ailments

WSJ | What you think is going on in your head may be caused in part by what's happening in your gut.

A growing body of research shows the gut affects bodily functions far beyond digestion. Studies have shown intriguing links from the gut's health to bone formation, learning and memory and even conditions including Parkinson's disease. Recent research found disruptions to the stomach or intestinal bacteria can prompt depression and anxiety—at least in lab rats.

Better understanding the communication between the gut and the brain could help reveal the causes of and treatments for a range of ailments, and provide diagnostic clues for doctors.

"The gut is important in medical research, not just for problems pertaining to the digestive system but also problems pertaining to the rest of the body," says Pankaj J. Pasricha, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The gut—considered as a single digestive organ that includes the esophagus, stomach and intestines—has its own nervous system that allows it to operate independently from the brain.

This enteric nervous system is known among researchers as the "gut brain." It controls organs including the pancreas and gall bladder via nerve connections. Hormones and neurotransmitters generated in the gut interact with organs such as the lungs and heart.

Like the brain and spinal cord, the gut is filled with nerve cells. The small intestine alone has 100 million neurons, roughly equal to the amount found in the spinal cord, says Michael Gershon, a professor at Columbia University.

The vagus nerve, which stretches down from the brainstem, is the main conduit between the brain and gut. But the gut doesn't just take orders from the brain.

"The brain is a CEO that doesn't like to micromanage," says Dr. Gershon. The brain receives much more information from the gut than it sends down, he adds.

Many people with psychiatric and brain conditions also report gastrointestinal issues. New research indicates problems in the gut may cause problems in the brain, just as a mental ailment, such as anxiety, can upset the stomach.

Stanford's Dr. Pasricha and colleagues examined this question in the lab by irritating the stomachs of newborn rats. By the time the animals were eight to 10 weeks old, the physical disturbance had healed, but these animals displayed more depressed and anxious behaviors, such as giving up more quickly in a swimming task, than rats whose stomachs weren't irritated.

Compared to controls, the rats also showed increased sensitivity to stress and produced more of a stress hormone, in a study published in May in a Public Library of Science journal, PLoS One.

Other work, such as that of researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, demonstrated that bacteria in the gut—known as gut flora—play a role in how the body responds to stress. The exact mechanism is unknown, but certain bacteria are thought to facilitate important interactions between the gut and the brain.

10 comments:

Dale Asberry said...

You put this fat pr0n up here for Big Don, didn't you?...

CNu said...

Dood, can.there.be.any.doubt - that amazing (and amazingly wrong) things are going on in that massive expanse of chitterlings? Can you even imagine what the atmosphere gets to be like in the cab of his tractor-trailer after a beer and chicken-wings blow-out?

Dale Asberry said...

The spousal unit works with a couple men that are large like this. The biggest issue she has with them is body odour.

BTW, did I send you the gut/autism links?

CNu said...

Not sure, but I've seen a goodly amount of coverage of that topic.

lol@"large like this" - he washes himself with a rag on a stick....,

I've  been religious about running since the 26th and each instance brings home beyond any shadow of a doubt the absolute necessity for pounding movement. Every system in the body requires this pounding animal movement - and it's absence is the beginning of rot and decay.

I'm thinkin this poor guy would be panting for dear life if forced to walk a quarter mile with a little bit of an incline...,

Dale Asberry said...

absolute necessity for pounding movement.
...hence my spousal unit ;-)

As for the running and pounding -- ish. The best, most fit runners actually experience a minimal amount of pounding. The reason being that civilized man doesn't know how to locomote properly. No doubt we definitely don't move enough. I personally noticed the elimination of the rot and decay while cycling. It's much, much easier on my joints and is a great substitute for driving in the non-frigid months. My wife got an indoor cycling machine for my bike that I'm looking forward to using. Might even rig up a desk so I can work and pedal.

As for the guy... wife's coworkers get out of breath getting up out of their chairs...

CNu said...

I seem to recall you styling a Donald Rumsfeld standing-desk type scenario?

As for the cycling, yeah, yeah, yeah...., I've heard all of that before, but remain substantively unconvinced by doods in spandex with little helmets and padded spanks to protect their nizzuts from the bike seat.

Give my the Cassius Clay circa 1964 roadwork over that Tour de Ponce rigamarole any day. My goal is to get as close as possible to that exemplary weight/stamina/power ratio as possible - by this summer.

Dale Asberry said...

I seem to recall you styling a Donald Rumsfeld standing-desk type scenario?

Yup. Biggest downside was sore feet and ankles at the end of the day. In a corporate environment, I'll do it for sure. Telecommuting will give me other options like a bike desk.

substantively unconvinced by doods in spandex with little helmets and padded spanks to protect their nizzuts

Hey, I don't go hatin' on your running and teh geh outfits runners wear! As for protecting the family jewels, my bike allows me to ride in a much more upright position - easier on my back, wrists, and nizznuts. I actually wear the padded spanks, but to protect my crotch from chafing -- wear 'em when I jog too for the same reason. Hell, the sheer practicality and enjoyment of jumping on the bike and riding over to the $1 store makes cycling very compelling. (BTW, I have never really understood the stoopit outfits most cyclists wear)

Keep at that running -- no matter what cardio you engage in, you'll feel the rot melting right off.

nanakwame said...

please do, you pic show how middle class men can gain weight, buried three buddies in the last ten years who are younger than my 61 years. Strokes are coming quite young these days. They have located the gene that effect weight. And I believe they are going to control size of the body for space colonies. Form is an illusion 

Dale Asberry said...

Although not really mentioned in this particular gutsy article, the flora and fauna of the gut have far more to do with weight than genetics. We also know the kinds of food we eat change the gut environment pretty significantly.

nanakwame said...

Really Sir: Why I got my Trinidad Nabe restaurant to cook plant foods which grandma cooked. Green banana, and Cassava with salt fish, even the sardine, onion with acavado is a good simple meal.  Leave the rice/pasta, everyday alone, beautiful women come from Trini who still have the African butt, leave their tradition and blow up. That is all the observation I need. The American black women in the main has lost that callipygain by the time they reach 30's. The Black middle class even dropped the traditions of their family for the American main stream now  are suffering bad. Most of Southern blacks eating fried fish is killing them, highest strokes in the Nation. Instead of eating grits and eggs or grits and fish. I am 5 11 and 1/2 and less than 175 lbs but the muscle is like steel. I do a regiment that is my own and now many are getting back too. Don't need to pay anyone or a gym. I hate to feel fat, since I came from a one room apt. to owning my own 55 years ago. One leg is science the other leg of the stool is the art of living, the third is intuition.

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