How Your Gut Bacteria Influences Your Emotions

With guest host Jane Clayson.

Can bacteria in your gut influence your brain? Your mood? Your emotions? Top scientists say yes.

Bacteria under a microscope.

Bacteria under a microscope.

The human body is crawling with trillions of microorganisms. They outnumber human cells. Scientists think this gut bacteria could play a key role in how our bodies run. More and more researchers are looking not just at how the microbiome affects our health, but how it could affect our brain. Beyond digestion and stomach diseases. To how we think and feel. Tying gut bacteria to anxiety, depression, and other disorders. And the medical potential could be huge. This hour On Point: we’re going deep into the gut and the bacteria that could have a big impact on our entire body.

— Jane Clayson


Peter Andrey Smith, Brooklyn-based freelance writer specializing in stories about food, science, and tech. (@petersm_th)

Dr. Emeran Mayer, Gastroenterologist and professor in the Department of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Physiology at UCLA, where he is also director of the Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress. Co-director of the CURE Digestive Diseases Research Center.

Rob Knight, Microbiologist and director of the Microbiome Initiative at the University of California San Diego, where he is also a professor of pediatrics and computer science. Co-founder of the American Gut Project. Co-author of “Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes

From The Reading List

New York Times: Can the bacteria in your gut explain your mood?— “Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety.”

NPR: One scientists’s race to help microbes help you — “Right now a lot of microbiome research is about pattern discovery. We’re finding connections between microbes and all kinds of conditions we never knew they were involved with — ranging from obesity to colon cancer to rheumatoid arthritis and (in mouse models) even things like autism, depression and multiple sclerosis.”

Live Science: The microbe-brain connection — “There are at least three ways gut microbes are communicating with the brain: the first is directly through the vagal nerve, which connects the network of nerves in the gut to the brain; the second is through circulating immune cells that are primed, or educated, in the gut and then travel to the brain; and the third may be metabolites, molecules that are produced by microbes in the gut that enter the blood and circulate to regions of the brain where they affect behavior.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
May 31, 2016
This 2006 colorized scanning electron micrograph image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the O157:H7 strain of the E. coli bacteria. On Wednesday, May 26, 2016, U.S. military officials reported the first U.S. human case of bacteria resistant to an antibiotic used as a last resort drug. The 49-year-old woman has recovered from an infection of E. coli resistant to colistin. But officials fear that if the resistance spreads to other bacteria, the country may soon see germs impervious to all antibiotics. (Janice Carr/CDC via AP)

A new superbug resistant to every antibiotic has shown up in the U.S. We look at the threat, and our dwindling antibiotic options.

May 31, 2016
In this July 31, 2015, file photo, an orca or killer whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. ( (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The end of orcas at SeaWorld, McDonald’s using cage-free eggs — should animal lovers be optimistic about a new “humane economy”?

May 30, 2016
Rock icon Donald Fagen looks back on a lengthy and ongoing career in his new memoir 'Eminent Hipsters.' He co-founded the classic rock group Steely Dan with Walter Becker in 1972. (Penguin Books USA)

Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen talks “eminent hipsters” and the cultural outliers that shaped his sound. He joins us.

May 30, 2016
Author and Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy. (Photo by Bob O'Connor / Courtesy The Author)

Strike a power pose. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy on the power of presence when you’re ready to act and win.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
In The Garden, Mother Nature Makes The Rules
Friday, May 27, 2016

Executive producer Karen Shiffman explains why she turns to her garden for food, friends and natrual comfort.

More »
WWII Vet Larry Kirby Reflects On American Values
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Looking ahead to Memorial Day, a World War II veteran looks back at the experiences that mattered to him, both in and out of war.

More »
Gloria Steinem Explains Her ‘Bernie Boys’ Comment
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem explains why her apparent diss of female supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders was anything but.

More »