Brain Fog and Your Gut Health
Throughout this long COVID ordeal I’ve been worrying a lot about the health of my brain, and that’s a curious thing. After all, I’m worrying about the thing I’m worried about with the thing I’m worried about, right?
If you’re thinking ‘this guy needs to have his head examined,’ consider this. It might make more sense:
Since the launch of the Human Microbiome Project, in 2007*, numerous medical studies have looked at the relationship between gut health and the other organs of the human body. Examples are the interplay between gut microorganisms (microbiota) and the central nervous system, and the influence of the same (gut microbiota) on the body’s immune functions. Both connections are well-demonstrated, if not perfectly understood. But evidence shows that when our gut health is poor, we are more prone to other types of physical illness; we are also more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression.
But a medical research article I stumbled on recently goes several steps further, referring to the “highly interconnected gut-brain axis.”² It starts with the fact that there are trillions of different ‘beneficial’ microorganisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses) living in and on our bodies, with the vast majority of them inhabiting our gut. It then discusses how certain of these friendly colonic-dwelling bacteria are responsible for the creation of small chain fatty acids (SCFAs) through a process of fermentation. Among other functions, these SFCAs are believed to serve neuroactive roles. Once they reach the cellular level, they are thought to facilitate the “crosstalk” between brain and digestive system.
Now consider (as these researchers did) what happens when our gut health breaks down. Production of SFCAs suffers. Conversation between the gut and brain becomes garbled; the transmission of messages breaks up. Don’t believe it could happen to you? Wade through the very technical second citation above. Though many of the mechanisms are still under study by researchers, it looks like everything from schizophrenia to autism could have a connection to the health of the gut.