We have a second brain. Our gut! All the organs that transport food from the mouth to the anus make up the gut. It’s such an important system in the body because without it functioning properly, we’re exposed to so many illnesses. It is referred to as our second brain because whatever happens in it directly affects our thinking brain and that includes our moods, emotions, thoughts, and behavior.
The gut is laced with a lot of bacteria – which is mostly good. But there’s 1% of bacteria called pathogens that are likely to cause diseases. When there’s an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome (collection of bacteria in the gut) then it becomes easy to have issues like bloating, obesity, abuse of antibiotics, inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. And when you’re having these bodily problems, your brain is affected by discomfort and pain which can lead to the development of mood disorders. But other than that, the gut-brain connection is important because;
- 95% of our mood stabilizer hormone called serotonin is produced in the gut! Yes, happiness and wellness are quite literally an inside job! Serotonin is so important because it regulates our sleep patterns, moods, learning, behavior, and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin are linked to an increase in depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Our cells produce small proteins that regulate how our bodies react to inflammation, infection, trauma, and immunity. Some of these proteins help us heal faster while others increase our vulnerability to inflammation. 95% of our immunity is found in the gut so when the bad proteins are released continually over time, one may develop anxiety, depression, dementia, and schizophrenia. With mood disorders like depression, inflammation is likely to happen more often in the body.
- We have signals that communicate between the gut and brain and they are transmitted through the vagus nerve. This nerve is the lifeline of our gut-brainaxis and if it’s damaged or dysfunctional, it will cause an imbalance to the nervous system. It makes our response to stress possible, decreases blood pressure, alertness, digestion, and heart rate – all of which serve to calm us down in the face of pressure or stress. Constant stimulation of the vagus nerve is a key ingredient to fighting stress and it has been used before to treat mood and anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal, psychiatric, and inflammatory diseases.
- Anxiety and depression can cause changes in the gut microbiome. You may have been struggling with either of these disorders and found yourself experiencing gastrointestinal problems like heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, etc. Pain finds a way of manifesting in the rest of the body and it mostly goes to your gut first.
Our dietary choices are the leading cause of an imbalance in the gut microbiome. You are what you eat because whatever happens in the gut also affects brain health. Chronic gastrointestinal diseases like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and neuro-immune disorders like chronic fatigue, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder can develop because of an unhealthy gut.
Reset your gut by cleaning your diet in the following ways;
- Eliminating toxins – unwanted and unnecessary substances in your body that do more harm than good. These are processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, sweets, red meat.
- Go for the more natural gut healers and fiber-filled foods;
- Vitamin D – eggs, fatty fish, mushrooms, the sun.
- Calcium – broccoli, kale, cabbage, sesame seeds
- Fiber – peas, berries, oranges, linseed meal
- Zinc – hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds
- Folate – avocado, broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, beets
- Iron – seafood, dark leafy greens, dried fruit, cashew nuts
- Magnesium – almonds, bananas, spinach, raw cacao
- Consume more probiotics to increase healthy gut bacteria like kimchi, almond yogurt, olives, pickles, apple cider vinegar, kefir, and fermented foods.
- Ditch the antibiotics if you truly don’t need them because they kill the good bacteria in your microbiome, therefore, living you exposed to the pathogen disease-causing bacteria.
- Rest. Rest. Rest. If your brain is constantly tired and stressed, it could greatly affect your gut health and lead to more serious issues. Stay intentional about seeking help when you need it and taking care of your mental health.
Please seek help from a doctor, holistic or naturopathic care provider to implement any supplemental regimen you may want to start.
“Your gut microbiome regulates your gut health, skin health, metabolic health, immune health, and brain health—influencing how we look and feel—so we must look after it.” – Carla Oats