The physicalized mind and the gut-brain axis: taking mental health out of our heads

Lindsay Bruce*, Sarah Lane Ritchie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


As it becomes increasingly plausible that the mind-brain is explicable in naturalistic terms, science-and-religion scholars have the opportunity to engage creatively and proactively with facets of brain-related research that better inform our understanding of human well-being. That is, once mental health is recognized as being a whole-body phenomenon, exciting theological conversations can take place. One fascinating area of research involves the gut-brain axis, or the interactive relationship between the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract (i.e., gut bacteria), the central nervous system, and mental health. A growing body of literature explores the immensely significant interactions between the gut microbiome and mental health issues involving depression, anxiety, gene expression, and stress responses. One's mental health does not occur in a disembodied state, but in a complex physical environment that is strongly influenced by environmental factors, many of which we can control. This article argues that science-and-religion can welcome scientific research in this area, creatively incorporating such insights into a theology of mental health and physical well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-374
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Early online date15 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Consciousness
  • Gut microbiome
  • Mental health
  • Philosophy of mind


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