Wisdom is difficult to define. We know some people are wise-Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kermit the Frog-but why They are more challenging to say. Some scientists believe that there is no single, all-encompassing definition of wisdom. But what they know is a state in which existence is inversely proportional to wisdom: loneliness.
Tanya Nguyen is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. She tested evidence that people who are considered smarter are less likely to feel lonely, and those who are lonely are less wise. She also studied the gut-brain axis and how the relationship between the gut microbiome and the brain affects healthy aging.
Nguyen told me: “We can’t be sure at the moment, but I think it may be a combination of both.” This is a cross-sectional study, which means it can show connections but cannot predict the “direction of the relationship.”
She said: “We know that loneliness can cause other physiological changes in the body. Therefore, these changes may also involve the microbiota, and may even be caused by the microbiota. This is feasible.”
“Or conversely, perhaps having a specific microbiome may change the social behaviors that lead to loneliness.”
The connection between the gut and behavior
When it comes to how the gut affects the self, most of what we know comes from animals. Nguyen explained that studies of different animal species have shown that microorganisms can create clues for social interaction and communication. For example, rodent studies have shown that changes in the intestinal flora can regulate emotional behavior, including depression and anxiety.
We have not yet conducted equivalent research on humans, but past research has linked the diversity and composition of gut microbes with certain personality traits and socio-psychological structures.For example, a study was published in March 2020 in Journal of Human Microbiology Studies have found that people with strong social skills have higher gut microbiome diversity, while people with anxiety disorders have lower gut microbiome diversity. But the important thing is that this is an observed association-not causality.
The research by Nguyen and her colleagues was published in the journal in March Frontiers of Psychiatry, Is the first substance to show that loneliness and wisdom are related to the diversity and composition of gut microbes.
What was found- The team analyzed the stool samples of 184 study participants between the ages of 28 and 97 and self-reported their loneliness, wisdom, compassion, social support, and social engagement. These stool samples helped the team measure the diversity of gut microbes.
They look for α-diversity (that is, the “ecological richness” of microbial species in the human body) and β-diversity (that is, the difference in microbial communities between people).
“…All aspects of mental health and well-being Close contact To our health. ”
Overall, higher levels of wisdom, compassion, social support, and participation were found to be associated with a more diverse gut microbiota. At the same time, loneliness is associated with a decrease in microbial diversity, especially among the elderly. This microbe is consistent with previous studies, indicating that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to health-related consequences of loneliness.
The research team wrote: “The mechanism by which loneliness, compassion, and wisdom may be related to gut microbial diversity is still unknown.” Other studies have found a link between reduced alpha diversity and worsening physical and mental health, while microbial diversity Low is also associated with diseases such as severe depression.
The study shows that there is a possibility that lonely people “may be more susceptible to various diseases,” while social support, compassion and wisdom may confer “protection against the instability of the gut microbiome associated with loneliness.”
What’s next- Can preventing loneliness promote intestinal health and thus help healthy aging? this is possible. Wisdom can be increased through behavioral intervention. This research shows that this is a wise choice for overall health.
“The most important information [of the study] Mental health and well-being are closely related to our physical health. Nguyen said.
“Even seemingly “fuzzy” concepts, such as loneliness and wisdom, may be related to, or even affected by, “hard” biological entities. Loneliness fuels real diseases [even mortality], The gut microbiome may be an important factor related to this. “
Ruan said that this complex interaction between the intestine and the brain has a history of hundreds of years. Some of the earliest reports on gastrointestinal function and mental health can be traced back to the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. However, due to advances in microbial sequencing technology, the past five years have witnessed a renaissance in gut brain research.
Next, she wants to study the gut microbiome over a period of time to understand the chicken-egg connection here. Does the intestine affect behavior and drive loneliness, or does loneliness affect the intestine? Nguyen said the answers can help experts know how they will intervene and develop “therapies that help improve mental health and aging.”