The connection between what we feel in our gut and how our body behaves is more than a common saying. Our body’s digestive system absorbs the nutrients from the food we eat, as well as creating a direct affect on our overall brain and heart health. This pillar is about the affects and effects of a healthy gut biome and ways to promote overall gut health. Learn about foods, the use of supplemental nutrients, and other natural ways to keep your gut healthy and supporting your overall health.
Digestion will include the following topics:
Gut Health Connections To Other Systems
Strategies To Improve Gut Health
Structure and Function
How Gut Health Influences the Body and Mind
The gut has historically been a dark horse in the physio-psychological world. It is only recently that biologists have started to gain an understanding of how the gut affects the health of the entire human body – the mind included.
However, too many times the ‘what we eat’ surpasses in importance the ‘how we digest it’. These are drastically different mindsets. Along with recognizing the importance of the unique digestion process of each individual, it is vital to take a step back and realize the power the gut wields over the health of the entire human body and mind.
This is a major pillar to Dr. Carolyn Dean’s lifestyle-focused theory of ‘total body wellness’. By fostering a healthy gut biome, it is possible to support your entire physiological well-being through gut health.
Rates of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems have skyrocketed in the last century. This is reflected in dramatic cultural shifts in lifestyle, exercise, and diet. Due in part to better diagnoses of these mental problems, there is a growing body of evidence to show that the mind and the gut are intrinsically connected.
Firstly, the gut-brain axis is a two-way street. For example, when the brain perceives food, it sends signals to the stomach to prepare for an influx of precisely that. The stomach reacts in preparation of this meal by producing more gastrointestinal fluids. The same process occurs in situations that cause stress and anxiety. Symptoms of nausea and gastro-intestinal upset are far from ‘all in your head’.
These signals travel along the enteric nervous system – made up of over 100 million nerve cells that line the entire length of your GI tract. Given the brain’s influence on the gut through these nerve cells, it has been a revelation that the GI tract has an equally powerful influence on the brain.
The signals that your gut sends back to your brain are dictated by its microbial makeup. Adults contain more bacteria than human cells. Whereas there is ‘only’ 30 trillion human cells in an adult’s body, bacteria cells clock in at roughly 40 trillion. Together, they weigh as much as a brain, and are rightfully now considered a proto-organ.
Whereas a lot of your physiology is determined by genetics, your gut’s microbial makeup is largely dictated by lifestyle. This was proven by the case of identical twins, one of which was overweight and the other healthy. The two were found to have different sets of microbes within the stomach. When the twins’ microbes were injected into lab mice, the lab mice with the overweight twin’s bacteria actually gained weight.
The good news is that it is possible to take back control of gut health.
Improving Gut Health
The single major factor influencing the gut’s microbes is what enters the stomach. A healthy crop of microbes needs to be tended to. For a start, taking supplements that contain Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli can reduce bacteria that cause gut upset. Lactobacilli also helps reduce cholesterol levels when taken as a probiotic.
Processed and fast foods are high in salt, sugar, fat, and additives. In high quantities, these foster bad bacteria, which in turn reduces the amount of good. Instead, eat whole food with high amounts of gut-friendly fiber.
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