– By Leigh Hawkins –
I always knew there was a connection between our gut and our brain, hence the term gut instincts, but now this connection is becoming more widely researched and publicized. Poor gut health is actually a disruption in the balance of the bacteria in our gut and recent studies are now connecting it with multiple sclerosis, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and even to Alzheimer’s disease. With an alarming number of people suffering from heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and related issues, researchers are recognizing the importance of the communication between the gut and our brain. The impact the gut can have on our mental well-being has psychotherapy exploring treatment of some mental health issues through the gut. An estimated 40 million adults and 1 out of 8 children are suffering from anxiety and $42 billion is being spent annually on mental illness in America. The good news is much of this can be cured by addressing our gut. Our gut needs our attention.
So, for those of you that thought the gut was just for digestion, think again. There are the same amount of neurotransmitters in the gut as the brain. In fact, neurons in the gut are thought to generate as much dopamine as the brain and about 90% of our serotonin. Dopamine is involved in preventing depression and regulating moods, sleep, appetite, and body temperature and serotonin stabilizes our mood, helps reduce depression, regulates anxiety, as well as aids with sleeping, eating, and digestion. Multiple animal studies have shown that manipulating the gut microbiota (microbe population living in the intestine) in some way can affect behaviors related to anxiety and depression. Just that information in itself is enough to make me take better care of my gut.
Our gut is also a key player in regulating inflammation and increasing our immunity, with 70-80% of your immune system aimed at the gut which can expel and kill foreign invaders. Any disturbance in the gut can cause a subtle shift in the immune response around the body, which if prolonged, can affect brain health.
Here are a few ways that our gut bacteria can get out of balance-some are more in our control than others.
I cannot express the importance of our gut, especially with all the toxins that are getting into our food and drinks. Many foods that are deemed “healthy” or “natural” still contain preservatives and other chemical ingredients that adversely affect our gut bacteria. You can easily discover this by looking at the back of a “Healthy Choice” product and find ingredients that you can hardly pronounce.
Changing your diet will have immediate positive effects for those who eat more whole foods, fruits and vegetables and less highly refined foods, as is common in western diets.
The following is a list of some foods for a healthy and diverse gut:
Now when you hear the words gut instincts, maybe you will hear them in a whole new way. The gut is responsible for a lot more than just helping you sense something, it has a much more important role to your overall health.