‘I think, therefore I am’ is probably the most overused philosophical quote of all time. But the more I think about it, the more confusing it gets. After all, we don’t consciously control all our thoughts. The mind wanders on its own and all kinds of thoughts come uninvited, especially when you’re trying to get some sleep. So do our thoughts really indicate that we exist as actively thinking entities?
Recently, I read a book called ‘Gut‘ by Giulia Enders ( highly recommended read, though it’s full of silly toilet humour). Apart from a lot of useful information on pooping and digestive system issues, she talks about the influence of the gut on our brains.
Our body has more microbial cells than human cells, and the microbes in the gut actually control our minds. They fortify the blood-brain barrier, influence the release of neurotransmitters and modulate our immune response.
Apparently, a lot of mental health problems like anxiety and depression are caused by damage to the gut flora. So, the next time you have suicidal thoughts, remember that your gut bacteria may be dying, and having fermented foods or probiotics may help. The lack of these microbes has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism. There is a widely prevalent myth that vaccines cause autism (though this has been proven false.)
However, the widespread use of processed foods, antibiotics, agricultural chemicals and chlorinated water along with vaccines, may have destroyed the gut flora of the new generation, leading to more cases of autism in developed countries.
Scientists are already studying the effect of probiotics on obesity, undernutrition, intestinal and behavioural problems. You might want to experiment with your own diet to see if it has a significant impact on your moods and thoughts.