I’ve just attended the ATMS Gut-Brain seminar in Sydney today and enjoyed three excellent quality presentations. It’s probably the most hard facts I’ve ever heard about the Gut-Brain axis and the connection between gut microbiota and mental health.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Gut-Brain Connection
Michael Solano (Osteopath and teacher, Bondi)
Michael explained about the autonomic functions of the body, how everything is connected to the brain and the rhythms of the body. He suggested that the complex rhythms of every part of the body form a single system, not a set of independent systems, and that we have a homeostatic set-point. He also explained stress and its effects on the body, the adrenal response and digestive function. It was a scientific stretch for me, but fascinating.
The Role of the GIT Microbiota in Depression
Jason Hawrelak (Researcher and lecturer, Tasmania)
Jason talked about the gut microbiota and depression, in particular how each affects the other. I discovered that transferring the microbiota of a depressed person to a rat will induce depression in the rat. Jason demonstrated the biochemistry of the effects, highlighting the critical role of good diet. He went on to explain how the microbiota generates serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and noted that this can be compromised by many things including diet and antibiotics. Jason’s message is that depression can be linked to chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and leaky gut.
Inflamed Body, Inflamed Brain
Rachel Arthur (Naturopath and leading nutrition educator)
Rachel spoke on the connection between inflammation and depression and other mental health issues such as autism, bipolar and PTSD. She further explored the idea that chronic depression is an expression of inflammation-induced sickness behaviour, likening the experience to long-term flu. She went on to provide detailed scientific explanations and client case studies to back this up and answer audience questions on their clients’ gut-brain issues.
In all, I learned about the gut-brain connection on a much deeper and more scientific level than previously. My understanding is developing on the rise of not just auto-immune and chronic inflammatory diseases, but mental health problems too. I am encouraged to hear the potential for healing, but it will involve deep habit-changing work – on our thinking, lifestyle and diet – and a broad holistic approach to health.