Texas Tech University

The Connection Between Ayahuasca, Your Stomach, and Your Mind

Mackenzie Erlank

August 12, 2018

VICE US - Could changing your gut bacteria alleviate depression and anxiety?

Psychedelics—a class of drug that acts on a serotonin receptors in the brain, causing hallucinations—have been steadily gaining attention in the research community over the past ten years for their potential to treat a host of conditions.

Caitlin Thompson, 28, is one of many people who did her first ayahuasca ceremony not for medicinal purposes, but for a spiritual experience. "When I first did ayahuasca, I didn't know I was sick," she recalls. "I thought it was normal to sleep for 13 hours per day."


Something called leaky gut syndrome can allow chemical messengers called inflammatory cytokines (which—you guessed it—signal an inflammation response) to leak out of the gut and circulate through your system, eventually reaching your brain. Once in the brain, these molecules can then stimulate a neural pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA), the continual activation of which can cause problems over time, says Sarah Wakefield, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas says. "[The HPA] is really our stress release axis that activates to tell our body that it's time to be stressed out."

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