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Bangalore-based Rashmi Vasudeva's journalism has appeared in many Indian and international publications over the past decade. A features writer with over nine years of experience heading a health and fitness supplement in a mainstream Indian newspaper, her niche areas include health, wellness, fitness, food and nutrition. Her articles have appeared in various publications including Mint-Wall Street Journal, Deccan Herald (mainstream South Indian newspaper), Smart Life (Health magazine from the Malayala Manorama Group of publications), YourStory.com (India's media technology platform for entrepreneurs), Avantika (a noir arts and theatre magazine), ZDF (a German public broadcasting company) and others. With a Masters in Globalisation and Media Studies from Europe, she has also dabbled in academics, travel writing and socio-cultural studies. Mother to a frisky toddler, she hums 'wheels on the bus' while working and blogs about her life and loves at www.rashmi-vasudeva.com
Since it is the day of the season premiere of that worldwide obsession Game of Thrones (GoT), I think today I am allowed to make this comparison. The health of our gut is the GoT of scientific research — there is mounting excitement about the rapid new discoveries, subterranean links between gut bacteria, genetics and the human brain are strengthening, and there is growing evidence that gut bacteria might hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of several of our most feared diseases. There, I was not really kidding about the parallels.
In the latest chapter of this fascinating tale, scientists are now discovering that not only do our brains and our gut ‘chat’ regularly, but it is also possible to ‘interfere’ in this conversation to repair bowels. This interruption can work the other way round too — a gut-healthy diet may arrest the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
Though it has long been known that emotions affect our stomach functions, the extent of communication between our brains and gut are more recent discoveries. In fact, nearly 100 trillion gut bacteria participate in this conversation with the brain; a dialogue conducted mostly through neural and hormonal messaging. Either because of mental stress or a physical problem (such as chronic inflammation), this conversation gets disturbed and we become more vulnerable to both gut- and brain-related problems. Which is why doctors are now being advised to consider ‘talk therapy’ and antidepressants as possible treatments for chronic gut issues.
In a parallel research, scientists from Lund University in Sweden discovered a direct association between gut bacteria and signs of Alzheimer's in lab mice. Gut microbes are intimately connected to the immune system, and thus they affect our mood, stress levels, sleep and other brain-related functions.
Though research is picking up pace, the full extent of the role of gut microbes in our physiology and neuro-biology has not been explored yet. But we are reaching there.