This is a sequel to the
Connection that explains the vagus nerve and the circuitry connecting our
of people taking fluoxetine (Prozac) and other types of similar-acting
antidepressants experience gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea
and constipation. The problem with these drugs is that they prevent uptake of
serotonin by cells that should be using it.
While this enables the depressed
person to have more serotonin in the brain, less is available for use by the
cells of the gastrointestinal tract. "Serotonin is calming to the digestive
tract, initiates peristaltic and secretory reflexes," notes nutritionist
June Butlin, M.Sc., Ph.D. "Long-term use or the wrong dosage may cause
fluctuations between nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea, and can cause
depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fluctuations in appetite."
In a study reported in The New York Times
article, Dr. Gershon and his colleagues explain Prozac's side effects on the
gut. They mounted a section of guinea pig colon on a stand and put a small
pellet in the 'mouth' end. The isolated colon whips the pellet down to the
'anal' end of the column, just as it would inside an animal. When the
researchers put a small amount of Prozac into the colon, the pellet "went
into high gear," Dr. Gerhson explained to the paper. "The drug doubled
the speed at which the pellet passed through the colon, which would explain why
some people get diarrhea," the paper says. No wonder, in small doses,
Prozac is used to treat chronic constipation.
Although a little is beneficial for constipation,
a lot is not. When the Gershon team greatly increased the amount of Prozac in
the guinea pig colon, the pellet stopped moving at all. Hence, a little cures
constipation; a lot causes it. Prozac stimulates sensory nerves, thus can also
The gut has opiate receptors much like the brain.
"Not surprisingly, drugs like morphine and heroin that are thought to act
on the central nervous system also attach to the gut's opiate receptors,
producing constipation," notes pain management specialist Michael Loes,
M.D., M.D.(H.), author of The Healing Response (Freedom Press 2002)
"Both brains," he says, "can be addicted to opiates."
Many Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients
are constipated. A sickness we think of as primarily affecting the brain or
central nervous system also impacts the gut.
Our gut also helps us in some amazing ways. The
gut also produces chemicals called benzodiazepines. These are the same chemicals
found in anti-anxiety drugs like Valium, and these are the same chemicals that
alleviate pain. Perhaps our gut is truly our body's anxiety and pain reliever.
While we are not sure whether the gut synthesizes benzodiazepine from chemicals
in our foods, bacterial actions, or both, we know that in times of extreme pain,
the gut goes into overdrive, delivering benzodiazepine to the brain. The result
is to render the patient unconscious or at least reduce the pain, says Dr.
Anthony Basile, a neurochemist in the Neuroscience Laboratory at the National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
the world's healing and mystical traditions, the belly is seen as an important
center of energy and consciousness. You've probably noticed that many of India's
great spiritual adepts sport prodigious bellies. These tremendous tummies are
thought to be full of prana. Hence, Indian artists often depict their deities
with a paunch.
In China, the gentle art of tai chi emphasizes
the lower abdomen as a reservoir for energy. Tai chi teacher Kenneth Cohen,
author of The Way of Qigong (Ballantine Books 1997), explains that it's
possible to strengthen the abdominals by learning how to compact qi (prana) into
the belly. "From the Chinese viewpoint," he says, "the
belly is considered the dan tian or 'field of the elixir,' where you plant the
seeds of long life and wisdom."
Lastly, in Biblical times, the seat of emotion,
which we call the heart, is actually referring to the bowels. That thought in
itself conjures up an image of a young Romeo sending a love note to his Juliet
saying, "You move me."
In all seriousness, most people today completely
ignore gut health. As a result, they are experiencing health problems that could
be overcome if they knew that they centered in their gut. So I guess the thing
to remember is, as Dr. Gershon puts it, "Take care of your gut and your gut
will take care of you."
Notes taken from, Patient Heal Thyself by Jordan S. Rubin, NMD,
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