Gut-brain axis and how a cat can help improve gut health and boost your immune system

There is an interesting report in The Times newspaper this morning about the ‘gut-brain’ axis; something I had never heard of before. Feeling content can boost gut health which in turn can improve your immune system which in turn can reduce inflammation in your body which in turn can help to prevent diseases caused by inflammation such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and arteritis; inflammation of the arteries in the head 😊. The last point is mine. The point made about IBD comes from a study by a team at King’s College London.

The gut-brain axis and how it can fight inflation. Cats can help in this process.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The team found that treatments for stress, anxiety and depression can significantly reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and the body overall.

The world knows that a good relationship with a cat you love or a dog for that matter can be an effective and natural treatment for stress and anxiety. I have gone a step beyond the finding of the study and included owning a cat as a natural form of treatment for stress which it is.

It is not difficult to find studies which confirm that a cat’s presence can help to de-stress their caregiver. For instance, here is a quote from a study researching experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic:

However, research has demonstrated similar attachment relationships between cats and humans (Vitale et al., 2019). da Silva Garcia and Martins (2016) found that the presence of a cat or petting a cat can reduce guardians’ heartrate and blood pressure.

“Grounded by Purrs and Petting: Experiences with Companion Cats during COVID-19”

The team appeared to have coined the phrase the ‘gut-brain axis’ meaning that your mood is connected to you immune system via the good bacteria in your gut. The gut’s ‘flora and fauna’ helps control the immune system. Mess with the gut and you can mess with your immune system which in turn can cause autoimmune diseases.

I have relative who’s suffering in this way. For instance, a very long course of antibiotics can destroy the good gut microbes which can lead to inflammatory diseases.

There is a 2-way communication system between the brain, nerves, immune cells and gut microbes.

The scientists looked at data from 1,700 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This disease describes two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It affects half a million people in the UK.

The team wanted to find out whether interventions to improve the participants’ mood could reduce inflammation. In order to improve mood, they used cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants or exercise.

I’m going to suggest that they should throw into the mix owning a cat or dog companion. Of these two companion animals the cat will be preferred by some people and dogs by others. The dog can encourage exercise by walking and the cat’s purr can help calm people particularly when they are forced to keep still with their cat on their lap! 💕

The team found that inflammatory biomarkers in the blood reduced by 18% on average in the participants who had mental health treatment compared with those who didn’t.

Talking therapies were the most effective in terms of reducing IBD. Talking therapies are natural therapies. Owning a cat is a natural therapy!

The co-author of the study, Professor Valeria Mondelli, at King’s said: “We know stress-related feelings can increase inflammation and the findings suggest that by improving mood we can reduce this type of information.”

It is known that people with mental health conditions are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions. About 70-80% of immune cells are in a person’s gut. Inflammation is caused by stress.

The gut releases chemical messengers which influence mood. Improve the health of the gut microbiome and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There is a link between these elements as indicated in the illustration and the process seems to work in both directions.

The study is published in eBiomedicine which is part of The Lancet. Providing people with IBD with mood enhancing therapy may be cheaper and more effective than conventional medical treatments. Mood enhancing treatments show considerable promise according to Rona Moss-Morris a psychologist.

If you are thinking about adopting a cat please do so with caution and care. Make sure that you have the budget to be a good cat caregiver. And make sure you have the time to devote to your cat companion. I do not think that it is workable to live alone and work full-time every day of the week away from home and have a cat at the same time. Cats need the company of their caregiver. Some hard decisions, to be honest, need to be made before adopting a cat and they all concern whether the person is in a position to do it justice.

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