War is never pretty but when you use white phosphorous it becomes satanic and evil.
The U.S.-led coalition in Syria has been accused of using white phosphorus in the city of Hijan for the fourth time since mid-September.
Source: Source link
The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that “employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices is listed in the Statute of the International Criminal Court as a war crime.”
DEIR EZ ZOR, SYRIA – The U.S.-led coalition in Syria has been accused of using white phosphorus incendiary munitions for the fourth time since mid-September. White phosphorus is banned internationally when used in areas with civilian populations.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported on a bombing conducted by the U.S.-led coalition that had targeted the small city of Hajin in Syria’s Eastern Deir Ez-Zor province over the weekend. The bombing, allegedly intended to target Daesh (ISIS) terrorists who control the city, killed fifteen civilians – among them women and children – and injured scores more. Civil sources cited by SANA reported that white phosphorus bombs had been used, which – in addition to resulting in several civilian deaths and injuries — caused massive property damage due to the fires resulting from the use of the banned substance.
White phosphorus is well-known for igniting spontaneously in the presence of oxygen and its use frequently results in post-explosion fires that can burn for hours, as well as painful chemical burns for those who come in contact with the substance, which can stick to hair and clothing. The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that “employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices is listed in the Statute of the International Criminal Court as a war crime.”
As a result of the extreme damage it can cause, Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of the chemical weapon in areas populated by civilians. However, the United States is not a signatory of Protocol III.
The recent alleged bombing of a Syrian town with white phosphorus by munitions is the fourth time the U.S.-led coalition has been accused of using the banned substance in the village of Hajin just since September. On Oct. 29, and a few weeks prior on Oct. 13, local sources reported the use of white phosphorus by coalition jets in Hajin. A month prior, on Sept. 10, Russia’s military mission in Syria also accused the U.S. coalition of using white phosphorus munitions in the city of Hajin.
The prior bombings were the result of an effort of by the United States’ military’s proxy in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to take the city of Hajin from Daesh. However, the SDF suspended its campaign to take Hajin at the end of October, three days before this most recent bombing. Notably, Hajin is the site of an important Syrian oil refinery, making it an area of interest to the U.S.-led coalition, which is currently occupying 30% of Syria as well as the areas containing the vast majority of the country’s oil resources.
Watch | US Coalition uses white phosphorus in Deir ez-Zor
Unfortunately, the U.S.-led coalition has been using white phosphorus in combat operations long before September. In fact, the use of white phosphorus had become so commonplace that a New Zealand general that worked with the coalition openly admitted to its use in Iraq’s Mosul in an interview with NPR. The coalition also used the banned munitions in its efforts to take the Syrian city of Raqqa from Daesh in June of last year.
Those two offenses, which took place in areas that were densely populated by civilians, prompted groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) to slam the U.S.-led coalition for putting civilians in Raqqa and Mosul at unnecessary risk.
“No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like [Syria’s] Raqqa and [Iraq’s] Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” Steve Goose, the arms director at the HRW, had stated last June.
At the time, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition claimed that the U.S. military only used white phosphorus in “accordance with the law of armed conflict” and that the munitions were only “used for screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures.”
Thousands of civilians died in coalition efforts to retake Raqqa, which also destroyed an estimated 90% of the buildings in the city. Over a year after the operation concluded, many of the dead are still buried under the rubble. This past June, Amnesty International accused the U.S. coalition of “war crimes” in its Raqqa offensive.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.
With permission from
There is perhaps no better illustration of the deep decay of the American political system than the Senate race in New Jersey. Sen. Bob Menendez (image below), running for re-election, was censured by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting bribes from the Florida businessman Salomon Melgen, who was convicted in 2017 of defrauding Medicare of $73 million. The senator had flown to the Dominican Republic with Melgen on the physician’s private jet and stayed in his private villa, where the men cavorted with young Dominican women who allegedly were prostitutes. Menendez performed numerous political favors for Melgen, including helping some of the Dominican women acquire visas to the United States. Menendez was indicted in a federal corruption trial but escaped sentencing because of a hung jury.
Menendez has a voting record as sordid as most Democrats’. He supported the $716 billion military spending bill, along with 85 percent of his fellow Senate Democrats. He signed a letter, along with other Democratic leaders, calling for steps to extradite Julian Assange to stand trial in the United States. The senator, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is owned by the lobby for Israel—a country that routinely and massively interferes in our elections—and supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He helped cause the 2008 global financial crisis by voting to revoke Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law enacted to create a firewall between commercial and investment banks.
His Republican rival in the Senate race that will be decided Tuesday is Bob Hugin, whose reported net worth is at least $84 million. With Hugin as its CEO, the pharmaceutical firm Celgene made $200 million by conspiring to keep generic cancer drugs off the market, according to its critics. Celgene, a model of everything that is wrong with our for-profit health care system, paid $280 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower who accused the firm of improperly marketing two drugs to treat several forms of cancer without getting Federal Drug Administration approval, thereby defrauding Medicare. Celgene, over seven years, also doubled the price of the cancer drug Revlimid to some $20,000 for a supply of 28 pills.
The Senate campaign in New Jersey has seen no discussion of substantive issues. It is dominated by both candidates’ nonstop personal attacks and negative ads, part of the typical burlesque of American politics.
Scum versus scum. That sums up this election season. Is it any wonder that 100 million Americans don’t bother to vote? When all you are offered is Bob One or Bob Two, why bother? One-fourth of Democratic challengers in competitive House districts in this week’s elections have backgrounds in the CIA, the military, the National Security Council or the State Department. Nearly all candidates on the ballots in House races are corporate-sponsored, with a few lonely exceptions such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Democratic Socialists of America who are running as Democrats. The securities and finance industry has backed Democratic congressional candidates 63 percent to 37 percent over Republicans, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic candidates and political action committees have received $56.8 million, compared with Republicans’ $33.4 million, the center reported. The broader sector of finance, insurance and real estate, it found, has given $174 million to Democratic candidates, against $157 million to Republicans. And Michael Bloomberg, weighing his own presidential run, has pledged $100 million to elect a Democratic Congress.
“In interviews with two dozen Wall Street executives, fund-raisers, donors and those who raise money from them, Democrats described an extraordinary level of investment and excitement from the finance sector … ,” The New York Times reported about current campaign contributions to the Democrats from the corporate oligarchs.
Our system of legalized bribery is an equal-opportunity employer.
Of course, we are all supposed to vote Democratic to halt the tide of Trump fascism. But should the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, hate speech and violence as a tool for intimidation and control will increase, with much of it directed, as we saw with the pipe bombs intended to decapitate the Democratic Party leadership, toward prominent Democratic politicians and critics of Donald Trump. Should the white man’s party of the president retain control of the House and the Senate, violence will still be the favored instrument of political control as the last of democratic protections are stripped from us. Either way we are in for it.
Trump is a clownish and embarrassing tool of the kleptocrats. His faux populism is a sham. Only the rich like his tax cuts, his refusal to raise the minimum wage and his effort to destroy Obamacare. All he has left is hate. And he will use it. Which is not to say that, if only to throw up some obstacle to Trump, you shouldn’t vote for the Democratic scum, tools of the war industry and the pharmaceutical and insurance industry, Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, as opposed to the Republican scum. But Democratic control of the House will do very little to halt our descent into corporate tyranny, especially with another economic crisis brewing on Wall Street. The rot inside the American political system is deep and terminal.
The Democrats, who refuse to address the social inequality they helped orchestrate and that has given rise to Trump, are the party of racial and ethnic inclusivity, identity politics, Wall Street and the military. Their core battle cry is: We are not Trump! This is ultimately a losing formula. It was adopted by Hillary Clinton, who is apparently weighing another run for the presidency after we thought we had thrust a stake through her political heart. It is the agenda of the well-heeled East Coast and West Coast elites who want to instill corporate fascism with a friendly face.
Bertram Gross (1912-1997) in “Friendly Fascism: The New Face of American Power” warned us that fascism always has two looks. One is paternal, benevolent, entertaining and kind. The other is embodied in the executioner’s sadistic leer. Janus-like, fascism seeks to present itself to a captive public as a force for good and moral renewal. It promises protection against enemies real and invented. But denounce its ideology, challenge its power, demand freedom from fascism’s iron grip, and you are mercilessly crushed. Gross knew that if the United States’ form of fascism, expressed through corporate tyranny, was able to effectively mask its true intentions behind its “friendly” face we would be stripped of power, shorn of our most cherished rights and impoverished. He has been proved correct.
“Looking at the present, I see a more probable future: a new despotism creeping slowly across America,” Gross wrote. “Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion.”
No totalitarian state has mastered propaganda better than the corporate state. Our press has replaced journalism with trivia, feel-good stories, jingoism and celebrity gossip. The banal and the absurd, delivered by cheery corporate courtiers, saturate the airwaves. Our emotions are skillfully manipulated around manufactured personalities and manufactured events. We are, at the same time, offered elaborate diversionary spectacles including sporting events, reality television and absurdist political campaigns. Trump is a master of this form of entertainment. Our emotional and intellectual energy is swallowed up by the modern equivalent of the Roman arena. Choreographed political vaudeville, which costs corporations billions of dollars, is called free elections. Cliché-ridden slogans, which assure us that the freedoms we cherish remain sacrosanct, dominate our national discourse as these freedoms are stripped from us by judicial and legislative fiat. It is a vast con game.
You cannot use the word “liberty” when your government, as ours does, watches you 24 hours a day and stores all of your personal information in government computers in perpetuity. You cannot use the word “liberty” when you are the most photographed and monitored population in human history. You cannot use the word “liberty” when it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or General Dynamics. You cannot use the word “liberty” when the state empowers militarized police to use indiscriminate lethal force against unarmed citizens in the streets of American cities. You cannot use the word “liberty” when 2.3 million citizens, mostly poor people of color, are held in the largest prison system on earth. This is the relationship between a master and a slave. The choice is between whom we want to clamp on our chains—a jailer who mouths politically correct bromides or a racist, Christian fascist. Either way we are shackled.
Gross understood that unchecked corporate power would inevitably lead to corporate fascism. It is the natural consequence of the ruling ideology of neoliberalism that consolidates power and wealth into the hands of a tiny group of oligarchs. The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, refining Gross’ thesis, would later characterize this corporate tyranny or friendly fascism as “inverted totalitarianism.” It was, as Gross and Wolin pointed out, characterized by anonymity. It purported to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution and the iconography and symbols of American patriotism but internally had seized all of the levers of power to render the citizen impotent. Gross warned that we were being shackled incrementally. Most would not notice until they were in total bondage. He wrote that
“a friendly fascist power structure in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, or today’s Japan would be far more sophisticated than the ‘caesarism’ of fascist Germany, Italy, and Japan. It would need no charismatic dictator nor even a titular head … it would require no one-party rule, no mass fascist party, no glorification of the State, no dissolution of legislatures, no denial of reason. Rather, it would come slowly as an outgrowth of present trends in the Establishment.”
Gross foresaw that technological advances in the hands of corporations would be used to trap the public in what he called “cultural ghettoization” so that “almost every individual would get a personalized sequence of information injections at any time of the day—or night.” This is what, of course, television, our electronic devices and the internet have done. He warned that we would be mesmerized by the entertaining shadows on the wall of the Platonic cave as we were enslaved.
Gross knew that the most destructive force against the body politic would be the war profiteers and the militarists. He saw how they would siphon off the resources of the state to wage endless war, a sum that now accounts for half of all discretionary spending. And he grasped that warfare is the natural extension of corporatism. He wrote:
Under the militarism of German, Italian, and Japanese fascism violence was openly glorified. It was applied regionally—by the Germans in Europe and England, the Italians in the Mediterranean, the Japanese in Asia. In battle, it was administered by professional militarists who, despite many conflicts with politicians, were guided by old-fashioned standards of duty, honor, country, and willingness to risk their own lives.
The emerging militarism of friendly fascism is somewhat different. It is global in scope. It involves weapons of doomsday proportions, something that Hitler could dream of but never achieve. It is based on an integration between industry, science, and the military that the old-fashioned fascists could never even barely approximate. It points toward equally close integration among military, paramilitary, and civilian elements. Many of the civilian leaders—such as Zbigniew Brzezinski or Paul Nitze—tend to be much more bloodthirsty than any top brass. In turn, the new-style military professionals tend to become corporate-style entrepreneurs who tend to operate—as Major Richard A. Gabriel and Lieutenant Colonel Paul L. Savage have disclosed—in accordance with the ethics of the marketplace. The old buzzwords of duty, honor, and patriotism are mainly used to justify officer subservience to the interests of transnational corporations and the continuing presentation of threats to some corporate investments as threats to the interest of the American people as a whole. Above all, in sharp contrast with classic fascism’s glorification of violence, the friendly fascist orientation is to sanitize, even hide, the greater violence of modern warfare behind such “value-free” terms as “nuclear exchange,” “counterforce” and “flexible response,” behind the huge geographical distances between the senders and receivers of destruction through missiles or even on the “automated battlefield,” and the even greater psychological distances between the First World elites and the ordinary people who might be consigned to quick or slow death.
We no longer live in a functioning democracy. Self-styled liberals and progressives, as they do in every election cycle, are urging us to vote for the Democrats, although the Democratic Party in Europe would be classified as a right-wing party, and tell us to begin to build progressive movements the day after the election. Only no one ever builds these movements. The Democratic Party knows there is no price to pay for selling us out and its abject service to corporations. It knows the left and liberals become supplicants in every election cycle. And this is why the Democratic Party drifts further and further to the right and we become more and more irrelevant. If you stand for something, you have to be willing to fight for it. But there is no fight in us.
The elites, Republican and Democrat, belong to the same club. We are not in it. Take a look at the flight roster of the billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of prostituting dozens of underage girls and ended up spending 13 months in prison on a single count. He flew political insiders from both parties and the business world to his secluded Caribbean island, known as “Orgy Island,” on his jet, which the press nicknamed “the Lolita Express.” Some of the names on his flight roster, which usually included unidentified women, were Bill Clinton, who took dozens of trips, Alan Dershowitz, former Treasury Secretary and former Harvard President Larry Summers, the Candide-like Steven Pinker, whose fairy dust ensures we are getting better and better, and Britain’s Prince Andrew. Epstein was also a friend of Trump, whom he visited at Mar-a-Lago.
We live on the precipice, the eve of the deluge. Past civilizations have crumbled in the same way, although as Hegel understood, the only thing we learn from history is “that people and governments never have learned anything from history.” We will not arrest the decline if the Democrats regain control of the House. At best we will briefly slow it. The corporate engines of pillage, oppression, ecocide and endless war are untouchable. Corporate power will do its dirty work regardless of which face—the friendly fascist face of the Democrats or the demented visage of the Trump Republicans—is pushed out front. If you want real change, change that means something, then mobilize, mobilize, mobilize, not for one of the two political parties but to rise up and destroy the corporate structures that ensure our doom.
Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Featured image is from Mr. Fish/Truthdig.
With permission from
November 6, 2018
Almost 5,000 miles from the city in which his corpse was secretly buried – in one piece or in bits – by his Saudi killers, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder now rattles the scruples and the purse-strings of yet another country. For Canada, land of the free and liberal conscience – especially under Justin Trudeau – is suddenly confronted by the fruits of the bright young prime minister’s Conservative predecessors and a simple question of conscience for cash: should Trudeau tear up a 2014 military deal with Saudi Arabia worth $12bn?
When Ottawa decided to sell its spanking new light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi kingdom, the Saudis already had a well-earned reputation for chopping off heads and supporting raving and well-armed Islamists. But Mohammed bin Salman had not yet ascended the crown princedom of this pious state. The Saudis had not yet invaded Yemen, chopped off the heads of its Shia leaders, imprisoned its own princes, kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and dismembered Khashoggi.
So the Conservative Canadian government of Stephen Harper had no scruples about flogging off its LAVs – as these little armoured monsters are called – to Riyadh, specifically for the “transport and protection” of government officials.
Now you can hardly accuse Trudeau of being a supporter of the Saudi regime. Back in August, Mohammed bin Salman’s lads ordered the expulsion of the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh and closed down trade agreements with Canada after Trudeau’s foreign minister had complained about the arrest of women’s rights campaigners in the kingdom. The Canadians had made “false statements”, claimed the Saudis – whose own reputation for false statements would soon achieve proportions worthy of a Hollywood horror epic. Trudeau was in the Saudi doghouse as well as Washington’s because, only two months earlier, Trump had called him “dishonest and weak”.
So, of course, no sooner had Khashoggi been dispatched in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul than Canada’s liberal conscience bestirred itself. Surely now Trudeau must tear up the 2014 agreement for all those shiny light armoured vehicles which Harper flogged to the Saudis in 2014. Alas, it turned out a few days ago, the deal included what Trudeau’s government has described as a prohibitive cancellation agreement which would – if the armoured vehicle transaction was completed – cost the Canadians billions of dollars. It made economic sense, up to a point, but as with all things involving the Saudis these days, there was a “whoops!” factor.
For it turned out – alas, oh alas – that those harmless Canadian LAVs had been videotaped in the Saudi eastern province in 2017, putting down a Shia civilian rebellion. The Canadian foreign ministry – now, in a masterpiece of satire, renamed “Global Affairs Canada” – suspended arms exports and opened a “full and thorough investigation”. Nowadays, we are all familiar with “full and thorough investigations” – like the one the Saudis are enthusiastically conducting into the demise of the secretly buried Khashoggi – and the Canadian version of an enquiry subsequently concluded that the vehicles from Canada had undergone post-export “modifications”.
Mohammed bin Salman was by this time running the show in Riyadh, and Trudeau was running the show in Ottawa. But now arrived, yet again, the Saudi “whoops!” factor.
The LAVs, it transpired, had been secretly kitted up with turrets and machine guns, and these vehicles were used in the 2017 operation in which 20 civilians had been killed. But – and here was a deus ex machina to beat them all – the Global Affairs report added (with even further unconscious satire) that no human rights violations had occurred; that Saudi forces had made “efforts to minimise civilian casualties”; and that the use of force – readers, you guessed it – was “proportionate and appropriate”.
Thank heavens the Saudis were firing machine guns from those Canadian vehicles and not attacking their enemies with knives and bonesaws.
But now – and here the tired metaphor is oddly appropriate – the knife was twisted in Trudeau’s back. Step forth one Ed Fast, an opposition Canadian Conservative MP who, as the former international trade minister in Ottawa, helped to shepherd through the original lucrative arms deal with the Saudis. The contractual arrangements had nothing to do with him. The penalties were inserted by General Dynamics Land Systems, which assembled these wretched machines in Ontario.
Besides, Fast added last weekend, the deal should be upheld; Canada should instead censure the Saudis by targeting the property of Saudi human rights offenders and end imports of Saudi oil. And increase the transshipment of Canadian oil from Alberta, which neighbours British Columbia where – whoops! – Fast happens to be an MP.
No one could have been enjoying this as much as the Saudis. For Ed Fast also relapsed into the mind-boggling diminution of Khashoggi’s murder. He described the chopping-up of the Saudi journalist in Istanbul and his secret burial by the Saudis as an “issue” and a “situation”. “Issue” as in “problem”, I suppose. As for the Fast view of arms cancellation, it wouldn’t really “punish” the Saudis, and anyway – here we go again – Riyadh would only buy its armoured vehicles from other countries.
Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent MindsDennis Horak, a former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia – it’s odd how former western ambassadors to Riyadh have a habit of beating the drum for the Saudis – announced that cancellation would now “only serve to punish the 3,000-plus Canadian workers… who will see their high-skilled, middle class jobs disappear for a gesture with no consequences in Saudi Arabia”. Such a message would be “lost on the Saudi leadership”. Selling armoured vehicles was not a favour but “a commercial transaction”. What we should do, announced Horak in the Toronto Star, is to “speak directly” to them: “Engage, rather than disengage”.
Who would believe that this was the same ambassador Horak whom the Saudis booted out of Riyadh only last August after the Canadian foreign affairs minister complained about the arrest of women activists in the kingdom? Does he want to go back, for heaven’s sakes?
It’s not difficult to spot the moral – or the immorality – of this tale. Arms will almost always win over murder. Our “middle class” chaps and their families – for I mercifully haven’t noticed a lot of women among the CEOs of arms companies – must have their jobs secured, whatever the cost in dead Yemeni wedding parties, blitzed hospitals or chopped-up journalists. And already, scarcely two weeks since we all learned for certain that Saudi consulates could perform more ambitious deeds than issue divorce papers, the cloth is being cut to fit the scruples of even the most liberal of western states. So that “issues” and “situations” don’t interfere in the “commercial transactions” of the global economy.
Dr. Mercola – This is the cutting edge of mental health.
Source: Your Gut is Your Second Brain
Your gastrointestinal tract is now considered one of the most complex microbial ecosystems on earth, and its influence is such that it’s frequently referred to as your “second brain.”
Nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms compose your gut microbiome, and advancing science has made it quite clear that these organisms play a major role in your health, both mental and physical. Your body is in fact composed of more bacteria and other microorganisms than actual cells, and you have more bacterial DNA than human DNA.
In the interview above, originally aired in 2015, Dr. David Perlmutter discusses the importance of gut health, the connections between your gut and brain, and the role your gut plays in your health, and in the development of autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders.
Indeed, the connection between your gut and mental health appears to be so strong that some have proposed probiotics may one day take the place of antidepressant drugs.
According to an article published in the June 2013 issue of Biological Psychiatry,1 the authors suggest that even severe and chronic mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, might be eliminated through the use of certain probiotics.
Two strains shown to have a calming influence, in part by dampening stress hormones, are Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifdobacterium longum. Others may have similar effects, although more research is needed to identify them.
Using MRI scans, Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, is also comparing the physical brain structure of thousands of volunteers, looking for connections between brain structure and the types of bacteria found in their guts.
So far, he has found differences in how certain brain regions are connected, depending on the dominant species of bacteria. As reported by NPR:2 “That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine what kinds of brains we have — how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired.”
The human gut has 200 million neurons — the equivalent of a cat’s or dog’s brain. And, if an animal is considered intelligent, your gut is equally smart. Your gut also houses nearly 100 trillion microorganisms, which influence everything from biological to emotional functioning.
Your upper brain is home to your central nervous system while your gut houses the enteric nervous system. The two nervous systems, the central nervous system in your brain and the enteric nervous system in your gut, are in constant communication, connected as they are via the vagus nerve.
Your vagal nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and the longest nerve in your body, extending through your neck into your abdomen.3 It has the widest distribution of both sensory and motor fibers.
Your brain and gut also use the same neurotransmitters for communication, one of which is serotonin — a neurochemical associated with mood control. However, the message sent by serotonin changes based on the context of its environment.
In your brain, serotonin signals and produces a state of well-being. In your gut — where 95 percent of your serotonin is produced — it sets the pace for digestive transit and acts as an immune system regulator.
Interestingly, gut serotonin not only acts on the digestive tract but is also released into your bloodstream, and acts on your brain, particularly your hypothalamus, which is involved in the regulation of emotions.
While we’ve known that the gut and brain communicate via the vagus nerve, researchers have only recently come to realize that gut serotonin regulates emotions in a much more complex way than previously thought. Not only can your emotions influence your gut, but the reverse is also true.
Researchers have been able to better examine the gut’s influence on emotions by studying people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 1 in 10 people, and is characterized by digestive difficulties and severe abdominal pain. This, despite the fact that no organic malfunction in the digestive system can be found.
One theory posits that IBS is rooted in dysfunctional information flow between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. But what could be causing these communication problems? One theory is that the problem originates in the intestinal wall, and that IBS is the result of faulty communication between the mucosal surface of your intestines and the nerves.”
Research shows that in patients with IBS, the nerves in the gut are far more active than in healthy people, which has led researchers to speculate that the pain IBS patients suffer is the result of a hypersensitive nervous system.
Others have noted that IBS is frequently brought on by stress or emotional trauma. To dampen hypervigilance in the nervous system, some researchers are using hypnosis to help ease IBS patients’ pain.
While the brain is still receiving the same kind of pain signals from the gut, hypnosis can make your brain less sensitive to them. So, pain that was previously intolerable is now perceived as tolerable. The effectiveness of hypnosis has been confirmed using brain imaging, showing hypnosis in fact downregulates activation of pain centers in the brain.
Similarly, Dr. Zhi-yun Bo, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who specializes in abdominal acupuncture,4 has been able to treat a wide variety of health conditions, both physical and mental, from acute pain to chronic illness and depression, by needling certain areas of the belly.
Another intriguing idea is that your gut may in fact be the root of, or at the very least a part of, your subconscious mind. Your gut can send signals, to which your brain responds, even though those signals never reach conscious awareness.
Your ability to think positive thoughts and feel emotionally uplifted is actually strongly associated with the chemical messages broadcast by your gut. Serotonin released during sleep has also been shown to influence your dreams.
Parkinson’s affects nearly a half-million people in the U.S.6 According to recent research7 published in the journal Neurology, Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and travel to the brain via the vagus nerve.
The study participants previously had a resection of their vagus nerve, often performed in people who suffer from ulcers to reduce the amount of acid secretion and reduce the potential for peptic ulcers.8
Using the national registry in Sweden, researchers compared nearly 10,000 people who had a vagotomy against the records of over 375,000 who had not undergone the surgery. Although the researchers did not find a difference in the gross number of people who developed Parkinson’s between the groups, after delving further they discovered something interesting.
People who had a truncal vagotomy, in which the trunk of the nerve is fully resected, as opposed to a selective vagotomy, had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The scientists adjusted for external factors, such as diabetes, arthritis, obstructive pulmonary disease and other health conditions. According to study author Bojing Liu, of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden:9
“These results provide preliminary evidence that Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut. Other evidence for this hypothesis is that people with Parkinson’s disease often have gastrointestinal problems such as constipation that can start decades before they develop the disease.
In addition, other studies have shown that people who will later develop Parkinson’s disease have a protein believed to play a key role in Parkinson’s disease in their gut.”
Indeed, mounting research suggests we may have had the wrong idea about Parkinson’s all along. As mentioned by Liu, there’s other compelling evidence suggesting this disease may have its origins in the gut. Research published in 2016 actually found a functional link between specific gut bacteria and the onset of Parkinson’s disease.10,11,12
In short, specific chemicals produced by certain gut bacteria worsen the accumulation of proteins in the brain associated with the disease. What’s more, the actual proteins implicated in the disease actually appear to travel from the gut up to and into the brain.
Once clumped together in the brain, these proteins, called alpha-synuclein, form fibers that damage the nerves in your brain, resulting in the telltale tremors and movement problems exhibited by Parkinson’s patients. In fact, the researchers believe alpha-synuclein producing gut bacteria not only regulate, but are actually required in order for Parkinson’s symptoms to occur.
The link is so intriguing they suggest the best treatment strategy may be to address the gut rather than the brain using specific probiotics rather than drugs. In this study, synthetic alpha-synuclein was injected into the stomach and intestines of mice.
After seven days, clumps of alpha-synuclein were observed in the animals’ guts. Clumping peaked after 21 days. By then, clumps of alpha-synuclein were also observed in the vagus nerve, which connects the gut and brain. As noted by Science News:13
“Sixty days after the injections, alpha-synuclein had accumulated in the midbrain, a region packed with nerve cells that make the chemical messenger dopamine. These are the nerve cells that die in people with Parkinson’s, a progressive brain disorder that affects movement.
After reaching the brain, alpha-synuclein spreads thanks in part to brain cells called astrocytes, a second study suggests. Experiments with cells in dishes showed that astrocytes can store up and spread alpha-synuclein among cells …”
Over time, as these clumps of alpha-synuclein started migrating toward the brain, the animals began exhibiting movement problems resembling those in Parkinson’s patients. Findings such as these suggest that, at least in some patients, the disease may actually originate in the gut, and chronic constipation could be an important early warning sign.
The same kinds of lesions found in Parkinson’s patients’ brains have also been found in their guts, leading to the idea that a simple biopsy of your intestinal wall may in fact be a good way to diagnose the disease. In other words, by looking at the intestinal tissue, scientists can get a pretty clear picture of what’s going on inside your brain.
In addition to digesting food and allowing your body to extract energy from foods that would otherwise be indigestible, your gut bacteria also help determine what’s poisonous and what’s healthy, and play a crucial role in your immune system. Your immune system is to a great extent educated based on the information received from your gut bacteria.
So, exposure to a wide variety of bacteria helps your immune system stay alert and actually optimizes its function. Bacterial colonization begins at birth, and things like antibiotic use by the mother or child, birth by cesarean section, bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding and excessive hygiene can all impair a child’s immune function by limiting exposure to beneficial bacteria.
Researchers have also discovered that humans can be divided into three enterotypes14 — three distinct groupings based on the makeup of our gut microbiomes, and the difference between them lies in our capacity to convert food into energy. All three groups produce vitamins, but to varying degrees.
Curiously, these enterotypes do not appear to be related to geographical location, nationality, race, gender or age, and the precise reason for the development of these enterotypes is still unknown. Diet is one possible, and likely probable, factor.
In the future, researchers hope to be able to determine how various bacteria influence health and the onset of diseases. Already, scientists have identified bacteria that appear to predispose people to conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and cardiovascular disease.
Experimental data also show different gut microbiota can have a determining effect on behavior, for better or worse, and probiotics have been shown to dampen emotional reactivity, reducing the effects of stress.