Gut health.  I talk about it all the time because it’s that important.  It’s not just so you don’t experience heartburn or make sure you’re “regular.”  The health of your gut has an impact on every part of your body – from your brain to your weight to how you feel mentally.

New research out of McMaster University found that altering good gut flora by using antibiotics affected behavioral changes in healthy adult mice.

Their results, published in Gastroenterology, outlined an increase in anxiety and lower impulse control as levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) rose in the test subjects.  BDNF has been pinpointed as a factor in cases of major depression and anxiety disorders.

For years, there have been questions about the correlation between anxiety disorders, depression, and even adult-onset autism in those patients who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal problems.

McMaster professor of medicine, Stephen Collins, explained, “The exciting results provide stimulus for further investigating a microbial component to the causation of behavioral illnesses.”  Stopping the antibiotics enabled gut flora to return to normal.  “This was accompanied by restoration of normal behavior and brain chemistry.”

This study is spawning alternative studies to determine if probiotic therapies – rather than pharmaceutical drugs – are the answer to mental and emotional disorders.  Especially those linked to other conditions of the gut.

Your Gut Health Depends on Good Bacteria

Human beings have thousands of trillions of beneficial bacteria (more than 1,000 individual species in your intestines) that perform critical functions in your body.  You can’t survive without these “helpers” gathering necessary energy from the foods you eat, distributing nutrition to the cells inside your belly, and protecting you from infections.

It’s a well-known fact that prescription antibiotics destroy these good gut flora in mass slaughter, leaving you vulnerable to attack from non-beneficial bacteria.  This is particularly dangerous if you encounter one of the many “superbugs” that are antibiotic resistant!

The Health of the Rest of Your Body…

Your immune system relies more heavily on your gut health than scientists every realized until very recently.  The good gut flora increase immune response when it’s needed and decrease it (such as in the case of inflammation) when a problem, illness, or attack has passed.

Mothers help protect their unborn children from allergies if they are exposed to animals and normal things in the environment such as grass and dirt during their pregnancy.  Children incubated and raised in sterile living conditions are highly susceptible to germs since their immune systems are underdeveloped and weaker than those kids allowed to get messy.

To combat obesity, eating many different, natural foods helps to provide a diverse mix of healthy gut flora.  More than 1,000 individual species of beneficial bacteria have been identified and just as with the rest of the cells in your body, some have very specific responsibilities.  Some gut flora are in charge of fat metabolism.  Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will provide diverse bacteria.

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There are many conditions that could indicate a gut that needs help… 

  • Gastrointestinal distress (gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements)
  • Sensitivity or intolerance to foods
  • Fluctuation in moods (depression, anxiety, irritability)
  • Being sick all the time (infections, colds, allergies, diarrhea)
  • Skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, acne)
  • Diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Decrease in brain cognition (poor memory, lack of focus, hyperactivity)

My number one directive to help you heal your gut is to narrow down the foods or goods that are causing you to feel bad.  Cut out the obvious culprits first such as tobacco, alcohol, and pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar, grains, soy, and dairy.

Put yourself on restrictions for two solid weeks.  Allow your body to heal.  This sounds extreme but if you want to feel good, you have to figure out why you do not.  That means taking out everything non-essential and adding it back slowly.  Restrict your diet to whole fruits and vegetables, water, lean (organic) proteins, and healthy fats (coconut, olive, or avocado oil).

Strip everything down to the studs.  Stop taking over-the-counter medications and talk to your doctor about any prescription drugs you can eliminate.  Consider using organic body products during this time if you don’t already.  The chemicals and heavy metals in most basic hygiene goods is terrifying.

Include fermented foods to repopulate healthy gut flora.  Live-culture yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha tea, kefir or lassi (yogurt blended beverages), kvass (fermented beet juice), and dark chocolate infused with probiotics are excellent options to help heal your gut and boost beneficial bacterial numbers.  If you can’t live without grains, consider sourdough bread to get your fix since it contains healthy bacteria.

For more great tips on how you can change how you feel by focusing on your gut, read my book “Fire in the Belly” right now.

Your gut health affects every part of you.  By caring for what scientists now refer to as your “second brain,” you’re going to feel better than you ever have in your lifetime.