Have you ever had a gut feeling, or some sort of intuition, that our brains weren’t in control of our bodies? Recent studies suggest that the link between our guts and health (both physical and biological) may have a stronger hold that once determined.
Gut health is a complex and ever changing indicator of overall health. The tiny microbes that live in our gut are able to communicate with our brain, forming sophisticated communication channels. These pathways work as health indicators and any miscommunications can result in health issues ranging in digestive disorders, skin conditions, allergies, anxiety and even depression. Dr. Emeran Mayer of the David Geffen School of UCLA suggests in his book, The Mind-Gut Connection, that the gut shouldn’t be considered the second brain; it’s the first.
How the gut interacts with the brain relies heavily on what we eat. Dietary changes can enhance the mind-gut connection while boosting immunity and mental wellness. But how exactly does it work and how can you change your diet to support your gut? Read on for everything you need to know about gut health.
How Does the Gut-Brain Connection Work?
Commonly referred to as the gut, this organ grouping is made up of several highly intricate bodily systems; It’s most commonly referred to as the digestive system. However, the gut-brain connection expands far beyond just our stomach and digestive organs. This connection touches the immune system (inflammatory signals), endocrine system (hormones) and even the nervous system (transmitters).
When the gut is inflamed, it not only results in a stomach ache or bowel set-backs but it can have an impact on energy levels, skin and mood. An example of the gut-brain reactions is most commonly the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. This experience happens when the brain registers excitement or nerves and the gut reacts with nausea, unease or most commonly understood as butterflies.
This feeling extends beyond the feeling and physical reaction; it encompasses a change in blood flow, contractions and even secretions (hello, sweaty underarms). Put most simply, the brain is responsible for the way we interact with the world, but our guts are responsible for how we react internally, whether it’s processing emotions, digesting food, and sending healthy transmitters through the rest of our bodies.
Breaking Down the Gut-Brain Axis
In the world of overall health, the gut-brain axis is commonly referred to. This is representative of when the brain and gut microbes are in a harmonious state. The brain is relaxed, sending positive signals to the gut, and that leads to a high barrier function where your gut is responding properly to the food it’s consuming. The axis is disturbed when there is an unhealthy diet , for example high fat, high sugar, low fiber, caffeine and alcohol. This can also happen when the brain is in distress and processing trauma or anxiety. When either occurs, the other will send a signal to the other resulting in gut discomfort and leakiness, skin irritations, mood swings, and more.
How Can You Balance a Healthy Gut-Brain Connection?
When these systems are out of balance, the best approach is to target diet and stress. In many cases addressing one will lead to restoring the other. Eating a plant-based diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, and antioxidant Alkaline water can promote detoxification and rebalance the gut microbiome. These foods include tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish and fruits. Many health professionals also strongly advise incorporating probiotics into your diet.
The live bacteria in probiotics are able to help address the issues in an out of whack gut microbiome. Probiotics work by balancing the good and bad bacteria in your gut, creating a health and consistent microbiome. Similarly, addressing one’s mental health can positively impact gut issues. Investing in stress management, meditation, yoga, and therapies aimed at treating mental health can improve gut health as well as overall mood, energy, outlook and so much more.
Committing to building a foundation for a healthier gut-brain connection is the start of a health overhaul. The interconnectedness of our mind and body is complex but knowing where to begin and making a change can have a positive effect on mood, skin, immunity and overall wellness. And while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, understanding the impact of a healthy gut-brain connection can do wonders in our long term and overall health journey.
From reducing inflammation, IBS and improving wellbeing, these results are only just the start of what a healthy gut-brain connection can look like. In an effort to guarantee a healthy gut, it’s also imperative to stay hydrated and drink water. Not only does this consistently flush out the gut and any bad microbiomes, but it helps food digest faster. Plus, drinking Alkaline water, a natural antioxidant, detoxifies the body while you hydrate and stay healthy.