Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain | Ruairi Robertson | TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica

imagine this you have just won ten million dollars in the lottery congratulations you have just eaten the most delicious warm chocolate brownie that has ever been baked you have just had sex and you I've just on all three at the same time congratulations to you two in these situations our brains produce chemicals called neurotransmitters which give us these great feelings of energy excitement and happiness and without such chemicals inside of us we wouldn't feel such emotions during such pleasant circumstances so instead imagine this you've just been fired you're about to sit an exam you have depression in these situations our brains instead produce different chemicals making us feel stressed and anxious the highs and lows of life are controlled by our emotions and these chemicals in our brains this vital organ inside all of us that controls everything that we feel think and do however as a biologist I've always found it strange to comprehend that every feeling thought and action that we have is controlled by a three-pound soggy lump of cells inside of our heads until I discovered that this might not be the case the story I want to share with you today unfolds a fascinating new revelation in our understanding of human physiology that we each have a second brain another organ in our body which controls as much of our physical and mental functions as the brain in our heads and which may be the key link between modern disease epidemics globally from obesity to cardiovascular disease maybe even to mental health but first to give you a little introduction to this story I want to tell you a little bit about my background I was brought up in a family of psychologists my mom is a clinical psychologist my dad a professor of psychology in a university my sister even has a PhD in psychology so when it came to me going to university I wanted to study something different I'd heard enough about the brain and how it worked at home so I wanted to study something new I considered what I was interested in and I figured out that from a very early age I've had a big interest in food I loved eating food and so I decided to study human nutrition and this was great because I got to study food how it affected our bodies how it could contribute to disease and more importantly how we could use it to fight and prevent disease the story this story begins back in 1845 with the birth of a curious young boy in Russia who became an incredible man but who was forgotten by history and medicine Aylee metchnikoff was fascinated by everything in nature and by the age of 8 he was taking notes on all the living things in his vibrant back garden he became so good at science that he discovered the role of phagocytes some crucial cells in our immune systems for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1908 but it was his science after winning the Nobel Prize that was even more crucial to our understanding of human health through a tale of discovery death and self experimentation see everyone in this room has something in common we all spent the first nine months of our existence inside our mothers wombs and this was essentially a sterile environment where no other living things existed just you but as you emerge into this world you were smothered in an invisible coating of microbes friendly microbes from your mother's birth canal these bacteria grew to form what is now a three-pound invisible organ inside your large intestine the same weight as your brain and which is become known as our microbe or microbiome and this invisible organ has grown so much in fact that right now 90% of the cells in your body are bacterial cells only 10% are your own human cells so you are more bacteria than you are human this ecosystem of microbes in your gut is as diverse as the Amazon rainforest thousands of species all with different functions and your health is incredibly dependent upon the life and vibrancy of this rainforest your gut bacteria digest certain foods produce essential vitamins and hormones respond to medicine and infections control your blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels many of the types of bacteria in your intestines can significantly in hat or a significant role your risk of certain diseases from obesity to diabetes maybe even osteoporosis they're involved in just about every process in your body they function almost as a second brain Aylee matcha cough may have figured that they say himself in 1892 he lived in France in Paris the time where a deadly cholera epidemic had broken out with thousands of deaths naturally as a scientist he decided the best way to study this was to drink a broth of cholera himself remarkably he didn't get sick so again as a true scientist he needed to increase his sample size so he recruited a colleague to do the same thing this guy didn't get sick either but when he recruited another colleague to do the same this poor guy got critically ill and very nearly died by studying cholera onto the microscope metchnikoff found that certain species of bacteria from the human intestines supported and stimulated colorist growth while other species prevented it he subsequently claimed the gut microbiota or our gut bacteria were essential for human health and that the right balance of microbes inside of us could help stave off disease however popular understanding at the time was that the human gut was a noxious reservoir of toxins surgeons it even began removing entire sections of human intestines in patients with God discomfort metchnikoff death in 1916 meant the ideas that I got back tear were good for us were forgotten a decade later antibiotics were discovered and drastically became overused c-sections became common diets became westernized a war was waged on microbes and we spent a century trying to kill them which turned our intestinal rain forests into barren wastelands this Nobel Prize winners ideas were lost in time some of the implications of this were identified recently too right now one in three children in America are born by c-section meaning they don't get this initial inoculum or coating of bacteria that's been designed by evolution to be in the mother's birth canal instead their first coated with other bacteria on the skin or in the hospital environment which has contributed to up to a 25% increased risk of obesity asthma immune deficiencies and inflammatory bowel disease in later life fortunately in recent times we've realized we must restore our relationship with gut microbes for our own physical health however yet we've still completely underestimated their role as our second brains and this is something that I'm researching and I learned this first through the intriguing story of a mouse it might become colonized by the microbe Toxoplasma gondii I an intriguing thing happens they lose their fear of cats in fact they become attracted to cats in essence they go a bit mad unfortunately for them usually end up as dinner for cats so this microbe ingested by this animal takes control of its brain and changes the way that it thinks and behaves so by delving deep inside the intestinal jungle of bacteria in our intestines we've begun to find some incredible discoveries that are changing our appreciation for bacteria forever the our bellies and brains are physically and biochemically connected in a number of ways first of all our intestines are physically linked to our brain through the vagus nerve which sends signals in both directions interestingly even though this is severed our intestines can still continue to function fully without a connection to the brain suggesting they have a mind of their own secondly our brains are made up of a hundred billion neurons which continuously send messages to tell our bodies how to work and behave well interestingly our guts have a hundred million neurons thirdly our microbiomes of the center point of our immune systems meaning a disturbance down here can cause subtle immune reactions all around the body which if prolonged can affect brain health and finally do we remember our chocolate eating lottery winning womaniser here in the front row he demonstrated for us that neurotransmitters are these chemicals that can change the way we think and behave and how we feel as it turns out most of these neurotransmitters are also produced in our gut none more so than serotonin nature's antidepressant ninety percent of which is produced in our test ions less than ten percent is produced in our brains I mean the types of bacteria inside of you may control the way that you think and behave as stress ever messed with your insides have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach you may have to think twice about that so as you can see despite my naive reluctance as a teenager I've begun to study not only one brain but two brains in the APC microbiome Institute in Ireland were fascinating this link between our belly and our brains and we research how our modern diets and lifestyles are impacting this got brain relationship and how we can design intervention to target the microbiota in order to prevent and treat chronic diseases for example we've shown that the types of fats that you eat throughout life can drastically change the types of bacteria that decide to reside in your intestines in addition we've shown that by feeding specific strains of bacteria it can enhance memory stress behavior and stress hormone levels in animals and in addition to a number of other researchers worldwide we've identified lists of foods that can act as prebiotics or foods that can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria inside our intestines to me it's fascinating that our health is so dependent not only upon nourishing ourselves but upon feeding other living or microorganisms inside of us meaning future strategies to target and treat chronic diseases made including brain health may depend on targeting or feeding our gut microbiomes as it turns out a league match Nick Hough may have known this himself see much earlier in his life he married but his wife quickly became sick with tuberculosis and died the stress and trauma of this led meant enough to take an overdose of opium thankfully he's arrived he then remarried and when his second wife got sick with the deadly typhoid fever this time he injected himself with a deadly tick-borne disease thankfully survived again it was only after this imagine a cough began studying and appreciating the microbiota he moved to Paris to work in the Pasteur Institute where he began hypothesizing that the right balance of microbes in the gosh could help stave off disease and he published a series of books and lectures describing how to achieve this and prolong life despite the stress mental turmoil he'd experienced in earlier life he spent the rest of his life dedicated and obsessed with researching how to prolong human life he began studying an interesting group of people in Eastern Europe who were living exceptionally long lives and he noted that they all drank bacterial fermented milk every day and he suggested that this contributed to their longevity interestingly he began drinking this bacteria fermented milk himself and seemingly lived a healthy life rid of the stress and mental turmoil he'd experienced in earlier life maybe that was just coincidental he described at the time in Paris as the happiest of his life but metchnikoff died in France in 1916 at the age of 71 the life expectancy in France at the time was 40 as humans we all need to adopt a greater appreciation for the microbes inside of us the incidental war we waged on bacteria over the last century has led to bacterial extinction and sparked an epidemic of modern plays I'm here in a fulbright to research how we can restore our relationship with microbes and how this can be used to prevent and treat chronic diseases but I feel that we all have the responsibility and the potential to follow in a league match ups footsteps not only to revive his scientific findings that were lost in time but to adopt his desire to prolong healthy human life whether it's by educating ourselves on the risks and benefits of c-sections restricting unnecessary antibiotic use or by adopting a good friendly diet and lifestyle we can all support the life of microbes that we've evolved to live alongside so imagine this imagine you've just eaten chocolate or won the lottery sat an exam or just been fired imagine your thoughts your emotions your behavior and your health could be controlled by a hidden organ that you knew little about ailee magic have fought to not only prolong healthy human life but healthy microbial life I feel we can all contribute to this fight worth fighting for our own health but more importantly for future generations health by restoring the relationship between microbe and man there is some food for thought thank you very much you


  1. Brilliant video eat your starchy carbs and fiber! Apple a day keeps the doctor away 😏

  2. Technically in terms of mass we are more human than we are bacteria, even though we are outnumbered by foreign bacterial cells our cells are a lot bigger so we are not more bacteria at all. No where near infact.

  3. so if gut health can affect our behaviour, I am interested to know the effect of intestinal parasites on our behaviour.

  4. 'Diets became westernized' ,🤓🤓🤓

  5. What is bacterial fermented milk??

  6. A great talk, and a great reminder of how we need to put our health back at the top of our lists of priorities….Dr Sebi was known for healing with food – he was murdered unfortunately….very sad ..

  7. Anybody recommend a frequently updated site that gives products or strains that give certain results? Also, while this is great, and cutting edge info, the reality that all life is reacting to the high emf environment, including our microorganisms, and this is impacting all manner of health problems right now, but it is a redhot hands off topic for anyone who cares about funding or their reputation, sadly.

  8. 2019🤗🤗🤗

  9. Bulgarian Yogurt – Bacillus Bulgaricus
    Long live Bulgaria !!!

  10. That is why Asian moms always said the way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach. Now science is agreeing with Mom.

  11. They're always after me lucky healthy microbiom

  12. Or vice versa… our..
    for example..when I'm
    Finished eating & my
    Stomach is full..but for
    Some reason I'm not
    Later….I would eat again
    WTF?!is wrong with me!?


  14. Whoa..a positively WOW-MOMENT Vid!!
    More fyi to mentally list.. soooo, just when u THINK u know..u now know how much ya DON'T! Thanx! Z😉

  15. Designed by God.

  16. He is a cutie

  17. The list of food which you mention is what we eat during Great Lent. Right food plus systematic reflections on our behavior – what can be better for our health? Unfortunately, people systematically forget good& healthy experience and rediscover it later, when it is almost too late.

  18. This is all oh so real 😔
    We bridge the gap in our diet with organic vegan wholefood capsules, which floods the body with fruits vegetables and berries which intern makes us crave healthy food. There are chewable gummies for kids or adults who can't swallow capsules.
    So it's a relief knowing each day we are geting all real nutrients absorbed 100%. We'll take them forever

  19. I’m getting rid of my Lysol 😎

  20. Trying to figure out why I’m stuck in my head and overthinking

  21. eat raw butter, drink kefir and you will be fine 🙂

  22. Don't upset the bacteria.

  23. Ha! Phagcytes 3:32

  24. that was excellent

  25. God created an incredible machine called a HUMAN

  26. Is it possible that pesticides and other things used to prevent diseases in plants, could be making their way into our digestive system and killing off crucial bacteria we need to be healthy?

  27. A great speech!! Thank you

  28. I listen better when the speaker is so cute

  29. I tink this was a lovely talk. I screenshotted his prebiotic foods. Long live veganism

  30. Preaches about gut health then encourages people to eat wheat. Fraud.

  31. Absolutely agree with you based on self history !! Beautiful talk, thank you!

  32. I so what if the mother has alot of bad bacteria when the child is born?

  33. 👤💭🍇🍓🍍🥝🥕🍆🥑🍐🍏🍅🍈🍑🍒🍇

  34. Gracias por el video 🤗 por favor dejen mas tiempo las imágenes. Para tener el tiempo de observarlas.

  35. Very interesting. Getting down to foundational biochemistry – acid to alkaline scale of Ph values – I suspect there are microbes that, like plants, some prefer acidic Ph and some prefer more alkaline Ph, and dietary choices can influence which is the dominant Ph in the gut. What do the body cells prefer? For example there are 25 types of steroids from the adrenal glands and they all attempt to keep the body environment at a slightly alkaline Ph, and as we all know the blood must maintain a slightly alkaline Ph. So Ph does matter – at least to the body fluids that wash through the body cells.

    So the question I ask is what microbes are best supported and do support a slightly alkaline Ph for the body cells? The reason i ask this question is that through many years of fasting (i.e.,autophagy) I've only experienced a flushing out of mostly acidic cellular wastes – from the intestinal tract and kidneys. Does a person on a mostly acid-forming foods diet benefit from having microbes that break down these acids? Certainly the body produces bicarbonates (alkaline Ph) once the chime leaves the stomach.

    Of course one has to take into account that autophagy is an isolating acidic, incinerative, inflammatory cellular level de-toxification via mostly through the gut and kidneys, and once thoroughly flushed leaves the healthy body cells in their natural slightly alkaline Ph. Of course the lymphatic system, being the sewer system for all cells, plays a major role in autophagy and maintaining ideal cellular Ph.

  36. Even fresh sweet ripe fruits can give us neurotransmitters – of the highest order…. my body luvs ripe fruits.

  37. 🎖🏆🎖

  38. Did he say "designed by evolution"? Evolution is a designer? Is that God's Name?

  39. the point about mice being attracted to cats after infection with toxoplasmosis is interesting because that bacteria is found in cat feces (which is also why pregnant women can't change cat litter).

  40. Our digestive system is our FIRST brain!

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