Protecting your gut health is critical to the well-being of your entire body. It isn’t called the “second brain” for nothing!
Your Magnificent Microbiome
Much more than a food processor, the intricate and fascinating microbiome that exists inside you is where many of the neurotransmitters used by your brain are produced. This is called the enteric nervous system and how healthy it is can dictate how you feel from head to toe.
In fact, 90% of the fibers in your vagus (the primary visceral nerve) transmit data from your gut to your brain, rather than from your brain to your gut. That was a fascinating recent discovery that blew researcher’s minds!
Approximately 100 million neurons are found here, lining the walls of your digestive system. There are more neurons in your belly than in your spinal cord! That means it can control the way your gut behaves (virtually independent from brain function).
Based on the new information being uncovered, it’s clear that gut health has an effect on your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health.
Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that has a strong influence over your happiness and feelings of contentment. Your gut is home to 95% of the serotonin found in your body.
As more information comes to light, scientists are questioning how your gut health affects major diseases such as autism, depression, and auto-immune disease.
They know health of gut microbiota is important but they’re still not 100% sure why.
It’s only in the past decade that research shifted away from the brain and onto the gut for specific conditions. Initial results are fascinating and it could take years to sort out what they’ve learned and how it ultimately impacts your total body wellness.
You don’t have that kind of time. You need to focus on preserving gut health right now, today, because whatever they discover in future will simply solidify the importance of the microbiome further. The studies won’t go in reverse.
Signs Your Gut Isn’t Flourishing
- Inconsistent bowels (diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating)
- Feeling poorly after eating specific foods (and the list keeps growing)
- Mood swings, depression, irritability, or anxiety
- Skin inflammation in the form of eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea
- Frequent illnesses or infections
- Decrease in brain cognition such as poor memory or inability to focus
- Chronic fatigue or pain with no diagnosed source
Doctors and scientists know the gut matters and that’s all we need to know.
Let’s talk about ways you can preserve your beneficial gut flora – the dos and don’ts of caring for your second brain.
5 Tips to Upping Your Gut Health Game
- Avoid antibiotic overuse. This is a huge one so it’s number one on my list! We’re inundated with antibiotics in our food supply and you must cut off this running faucet immediately. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are specifically at risk.
I’m not telling you to adopt a plant-based lifestyle but choose organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free whenever possible. More than 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are pumped into commercially raised cattle.
- Take probiotics seriously. Eating fermented foods with live-cultures is outstanding for your gut health. These beneficial bacteria must outnumber the harmful bacteria in your microbiome for your belly to do the job it needs to do.
Excellent choices of probiotics are yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), and kombucha tea. If you don’t get enough probiotics in your diet, find a quality probiotic supplement and take it consistently.
- Get excess sugar out of your diet. Sugar is one of the most harmful substances to preserving healthy bacteria in your belly. It’s great for the harmful kind though! Sugar (in all its incarnations – high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, table sugar, honey, and so forth) causes all kinds of imbalances in your body and provide a perfect fuel of bad bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.
Sugar is incredibly pro-inflammatory and there are few things worse for your gut than inflammation. Do what you can to limit your daily consumption of sugar and your entire body will thank you for the break.
- Dump the junk. While sugar is a major cause for disease in our modern world, it certainly isn’t the only one. Shopping, preparing, and consuming whole foods is your key to a flourishing microbiome. A diet that is diverse, colorful, and not flooded with chemical additives gives your body the fuel it needs to run the complex systems inside you.
Avoid boxed, bagged, or canned foods. Don’t detour through drive-through restaurants. Frozen vegetables and fruits are excellent off-season as long as they aren’t covered in sauce or preservatives. Read your labels! There are countless ways to eat healthy even on a budget or for a family pressed for time. It takes research in the beginning but you’re going to love how you feel once you form the habits.
- You must lower your stress! This is an aspect of gut health that too many overlook. Stress is a silent killer that gradually increases systemic inflammation by flooding your bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline. Day after day, these stress hormones slowly “rewrite” how your body responds to triggers – from a rough commute to waiting in line at the store to problems with a work or personal relationship – until the “on switch” no longer has an “off” position.
Stress and the resulting inflammation are literally root causes of every major disease known to human beings. When you add further stressful habits such as poor diet, toxic environments, and lack of sleep to the equation, the situation can become critical quickly and violently. Your body and mind are not supposed to feel stressed out and anxious day after day. Identify the stress in your life and put steps in place to lower it. Your health depends on it!
Gut health is literally the key to total body health and the longer you ignore this “second brain,” the worse you’re going to feel.
The good news is that helping your gut recover and your beneficial microbiome flourish isn’t about self-denial – it’s easy to enjoy the effects of your altered diet and wellness plan.
First, you have to start.
For more information about putting out the rampant inflammation in your body by starting with your gut, read my book “Fire in the Belly!” It’s filled with tips and tricks to get your microbiome humming along the way it’s supposed to!