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How to recognise the gut-brain axis?

Perhaps you already heard about the "gut-brain axis" or the connection between our gut and our brain? There is more and more scientific evidence that there is a strong relationship between both! At this moment I am finishing a book about the "skin-gut" axis, another important connection in our body, and I learned a lot about the gut-brain during my writing process. What did I learn already and how can you recognise this important connection as well?

  1. A lot of studies have already been done about the “gut-brain” connection. Even in 1916, so more than 100 years ago, Ketron et al found a relation between acne patients and intestinal stagnation or obstipation. In 1930 two dermatologists Stoke and Pillsbury suggested a relation between skin diseases like acne and eczema, intestinal and mental problems. Other scientists in those days even used some probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus (Shera et al 1930) to heal these skin-gut problems (1). Amazing how clever this was, because it took more than 70 years for most researchers to renew the interest in this gut-brain connection. The gut-skin axis is still something that needs much more attention, but ok... I am working on that!

  2. So how about our brains and the gut? Silly thing perhaps to think how they 'work' together. But imagine: you have an important exam, you studied very hard (or not) and you have to go to school to get ready for this exam. You can say: “its D-day....”… how did you feel at that moment? Or think about days like that, you probably remember those days and moments and how you felt. Perhaps you feel something happening in your belly? Maybe you will suddenly sweat (= skin reaction)... Many people feel things like that at moments with stress, some of them also have spontaneous diarrhoea or a fast stool transit time and this is all caused by your mind. Interesting, isn't it. Stress, depressive thoughts, anxiety are with other psychological and physical stress influencing this transit of stool in your guts and therefore your intestinal digestion (2, 3, 4). So imagine you have these kind of stress very often? Your small intestine and colon are having more problem to digest and to get the right nutrients from food in your intestine. Now perhaps you can imagine that even skin problems can occur: as your skin needs nutrients as well to stay healthy. Is it that simple? Yes it is… most of the times of course!

  3. Imagine you eat something that wasn’t good anymore. It tasted well, you enjoyed your meal, but hours or the day after, you feel weak, a bit irritated, tired, and when you produced your stool, you noticed that this stool smelled different, looked different than normal and maybe it was even a bit like diarrhoea. When you have to do something important during the day, it might be a problem at that time, as your body is out of balance and your mind is not clear and maybe even not able to focus as it should. If you didn’t understand how this emotion and physical feeling occurred, try to find out what you consumed recently or yesterday. Maybe than you understand more the connection of gut (food / drinks) and your brains (emotions).

  4. Next week I will be a keynote speaker on an international congress about Food, Nutrients, Probiotics and Microbes in Prague. And of course I feel a bit nervous about this lecture, while giving a lecture for a room full of scientists is quite new for me, and I feel also excited about this opportunity to share my passion. But not today! This morning I realised I have a bad day with more nerves then normal and feeling tired, with serious doubts and even a disturbed stool. After sharing my doubts with my mum I found out I ate something wrong yesterday what made me feel this way. My mum and I each bought - by chance and without knowing - a specific brand of cooked potatoes at the same day in the same store and we both used it – by accident - yesterday for our diners. My mum used it for her and my dad. Today she noticed the same kind of symptoms from my father, like different stool and mood. Only my mum and I – of course, like woman do ;-) – noticed his ‘dejected’ mood. Although I still don’t feel well, I am so happy because of this clear insight: it made me realise again about the importance and influence of this “Gut-Brain” connection and how it even can change your mood in a couple of seconds, minutes or hours and influence your will power and capability to function well. And in chronic situations it can even cause severe physical and mental disorders. And of course: even skin disorders!

Therefore I decided to share these insights with you, instead of finishing my presentation. Perhaps it reminds you of your own feelings and the days that things are not going as you wanted to or planned. Maybe its your 'gut-brain' connection that is asking for the necessary attention! For me I know what to do today: for the rest of the day I create some nice ‘me time’ moments like reading, yin yoga, cooking something healthy for my guts. So I will take care of myself, my guts and my mind. My 'gut feeling' is telling me: tomorrow, I am sure, will be a much better day. Healthy greetings, Marcelline Goyen skin therapist Bachelor of Health Science

PS. Do you want to share my blog in your network? Use the button below! PS. Wil je mijn blog delen in jouw netwerk, zodat ook andere mensen met huidproblemen hiervan leren?? Je kan dit heel eenvoudig doen door op een van onderstaande knoppen te klikken. Veel dank hiervoor!

"Een gezonde huid van buiten en van binnenuit!"

Marcelline Goyen

Literature: (1) Bowe WP en Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? Gut Pathogens 2011, 3:1 2011

(2) Wang SX, Wu WC. Effects of psychological stress on small intestinal motility and bacteria and mucosa in mice. World J Gastroenterol. 2005 Apr 7; 11(13):2016-21.

(3) Knowles SR, Nelson EA, Palombo EA. Investigating the role of perceived stress on bacterial flora activity and salivary cortisol secretion: a possible mechanism underlying susceptibility to illness. Biol Psychol. 2008;77:132–7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho. 2007.09.010.

(4) Khalif IL, Quigley EM, Konovitch EA, Maximova ID. Alterations in the colonic flora and intestinal permeability and evidence of immune activation in chronic constipation. Dig Liver Dis. 2005;7:838–49. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2005.06.008.

Marcelline Goyen Huidtherapeut BHS & Darmtherapeut

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