“The health of the gut is the health of the body,” said Hippocrates, the accredited father of modern medicine, who knew the power of the gut in supporting or detracting from our overall health. And, now there is scientific research confirming his belief, actually referring to the gut as the second brain!
Neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter, says, “… we now recognize that the genesis of these maladies – Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even non-neurological problems such as type 2 diabetes – is strongly influenced by the gut.”
So, what is the connection between the brain and the gut? Bacteria. Trillions of healthy bacteria living in our gut.
How many of us thought of our digestive system as doing more than just breaking down our food? Well, our digestive system does actually function as an integral part of our nervous system.
“Your intestinal tract has 100 million nerves that ‘talk’ back and forth with your brain. We’re learning, in essence, the mechanisms behind phrases such as ‘I have a gut feeling,’” says Dr. Rusha Modi, an academic gastroenterologist.
Dr. Modi indicates that one of our primary neurotransmitters for mood and memory, serotonin, is mostly stored in our intestinal tract. And, serotonin plays a role in development of Parkinson’s, obesity, mood issues, sleep issues and memory.
What does the gut do? The healthy gut bacteria aid in the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, etc.), actually causing change in our behaviour and mental health!
“You have an entire nervous system in your gut, and bacteria directly interact with your brain through their effects on the nerves in the gut,” explains Tara Nayak, Naturopathic Doctor.
She further explains, “Bacteria release neurotransmitters and hormones. You feed the bacteria, and they release end products that change the way your brain responds. We live in a tightly woven symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria.”
But, our gut is comprised of both good and bad bacteria. We need to keep the ratio at a healthy level, avoiding the proliferation of the bad bacteria.
Here’s what you can do to ensure a healthy gut and a healthy brain:
1. Probiotic – “The best choices … have at least 12 to 15 different types of bacteria and at least 30 billion organisms,” recommends Dr. David Perlmutter. Check with your health care practitioner first.
2. Prebiotic – Feed your good bacteria by consuming onions, garlic, dandelion greens, chicory root. “Prebiotic fibre is important for brain health, mood, and cognitive function,” says Perlmutter.
3. Avoid Sugar – Refined sugars are known to wreak havoc on our gut bacteria, causing learning impairment, memory and behaviour issues, among other impairments.
4. Variety – Don’t eat the same thing everyday. Our gut needs variety! The hundreds of bacteria species in the intestines each play a different role and need different nutrients for their growth.
5. Veggies – Eat lots of them! Everyday! Raw or steamed!
6. Fermentation – These foods: yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha & tempeh, provide a rich source of lactobacilli, a healthy bacteria, through the fermentation process. Fermented foods are also much more absorbable.
Let me know your thoughts!