My brain-gut thing

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 5, 2023, 3:00 PM | comments: 0

There is a fair amount of science being conducted around the "brain-gut" connection. The theory goes that your entire GI tract has its own "brain," a huge network of nerve cells that help your digestive system do what it does, and that in turn talks to the brain in your head. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it increases the complexity of how your digestive and nervous systems interact, and the way that they affect each other. Mood can be influenced by poor digestive health, and vice versa. As a person who has struggled with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) my whole life, you can understand why this interests me. It's also, unfortunately, another one of those things that is apparently taboo to talk about in polite conversation. And that's shitty. (See what I did there?)

About two years ago, I found myself taking Zyrtec every single day because my allergies were making me unusually miserable. By sheer coincidence, the algorithms put an article in front of me about a small research study on the effects of antihistamines on the gut. While the study could not conclusively prove causation (because of the design of the study and sample size), a non-trivial number of IBS sufferers experienced reduced to non-existent symptoms when taking an antihistamine versus placebo. I've been taking one daily since, and the symptoms are rare or relatively mild. It's not an overstatement to say that it has improved my quality of life.

The last few days, it has been pretty bad though. What I experience with that is a lack of motivation and poor mood, and with it, the realization that this was so common for much of my adult life. I never made the connection that when I was not at my best, I was also enduring IBS symptoms. What's even more interesting about this now, given the brain-gut research, is that the relationship may in fact be bidirectional. I've been feeling anxious lately, and I can't quite nail down the reason. Maybe because "things" are generally "good" and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they say.

This is all conjecture based on my Google-foo, and I'm not an expert. Regardless, the last year and a half have been pretty interesting in trying to understand my mental health in a deep and meaningful way. In this relatively short time, I've back-filled my life with the new context of ASD and ADHD, acknowledged and mostly overcome depression, and now I can possibly work digestive health, of all things, into my toolbox of self-awareness.


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