Gut-Brain Health: What is it and why it matters
There is a growing awareness in health-conscious people and professionals about good gut health and its importance in our wellbeing. But what exactly is gut health and why is it so important?
Let’s dive in.
The best place to start when understanding the connection between our guts and our brains is to first look at the brain. For years, scientists, researchers, and doctors thought our brains acted independently from other systems in our body. Our brains were thought to control our movements and thoughts without influence.
However, what we are coming to learn now is that our brains aren’t the sole ringleader in this game and our brains can, in fact, be influenced. Influenced specifically from the trillions of microscopic bacteria that make up our gut microbiome.
Our guts are comprised of billions of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and more. All of these individual microorganisms create a community inside our gut most commonly referred to as the microbiome.
Most of the activity that occurs in your microbiome occurs in your large intestines. Which is home to one of the most important nerves in your entire body: the vagus nerve.
- Respiratory rate
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Internal reflexes (like swallowing and sneezing)
- Allergic responses and abnormal digestion patterns
This nerve reports to your brain, like food you consume, the nutritional content of the food, hunger cues, just to name a few.
The Gut/Brain Connection
From the information received by the vagus nerve, our brains are then able to determine factors like:
- If you should or shouldn’t stop eating
- How your mood needs to change (still hungry? You might become grumpy)
- Where energy from food should be sent
Information is always flowing from our gut to our brain and understanding this is allowing people to change much more than just their eating habits.
If your gut is unhappy, unhealthy, and sending negative signals to your brain, researchers, doctors, and alternative practitioners are discovering just how big the impacts can be.
Gut Health and Mental Health
Aside from digesting food, our guts bear a large responsibility for our mental health. The happier and healthier you keep your gut, the happier and healthier your mental health will be.
The microbiome is responsible for creating most of our serotonin and about half of our dopamine, two of the most important hormones for regulating happiness.
The saying ‘you are what you eat’ has never been truer. The most common way to destroy healthy gut bacteria is through a poor diet. When our microbiome starts to falter, mental side effects occur.
Conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia are common in those with poor gut health. Research has shown abnormal brain chemistry leading to mental health problems is a direct result of abnormal body chemistry, poor nutrition, and hormonal imbalances.
Two Foods to Avoid for Better Gut Health
Unfortunately, the diets many of us consume are ripe with ingredients that wreak havoc on our guts. Diets filled with processed foods, refined grains, sugars, and genetically modified foods cause the most damage.
Refined Sugar & Grains
Sugar suppresses our good gut bacteria leading to a compromised microbiome unable to fight off cravings and increases chronic inflammation throughout the body – including the brain.
Sugars have been linked to depression and even cancer. Artificial sweeteners are even worse often leading to panic attacks, migraines, and type 2 diabetes.
Refined grains get turned into sugar in the body and affect the gut in the same way refined sugars do. However, refined wheat grains put an extra strain on our health due to wheat germ agglutinin, which has been linked to schizophrenia and neurotoxic activity.
Genetically Modified Foods
There are two main culprits when it comes to harmful modified foods: soy and corn. Both of these (and most genetically modified foods) contain glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in RoundUp.
Almost all genetically modified foods are “RoundUp Ready” which is when a seed gets injected with glyphosate, so when a farmer sprays RoundUp to eliminate weeds, the crop remains alive.
Glyphosate alters and destroys healthy gut bacteria and causes our bodies to start producing toxins that severely compromise our gut health.
Getting Back to a Healthy Gut
The good news is that your gut can be restored. Depending on the severity of your health problems and how severely your microbiome has been depleted, the road to a happy gut might take a while, but it can be done.
When it comes to getting your gut health back on track, the best place to start is with a certified natural digestive health practitioner. They will be able to work with you to reset your lifestyle and get your gut on the road to recovery.
However, there are a few ways you can do to get started right now:
- Eliminate (or significantly reduce) refined grains and sugars
- Eat fermented, unpasteurized foods
- Eliminate or reduce saturated, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated trans fats
- Eat more fiber-rich vegetables
- Add more probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut
For more information I invite you to set up a consultation with me or attend one of my Gut-Brain connection and Microbiome classes. For dates and times please email me at Brenda@authentichealthsc.com.
Yours in good health,