The gut-brain link
Containing many of the same neurotransmitters (the cell-cell communication mechanism) as the brain, your gut plays a huge role, much more than just the digestion of your food and giving you a flutter when you’re nervous. This ‘second-brain’ communicates with the main one in your head and plays a role in your mental wellbeing as well as many other diseases throughout your body. A big part of your emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in your gut, with 95% of the body’s serotonin found in the bowels.
Thus equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behaviour independently of the brain, so we really do need to take care of it.
What makes these vital chemicals? Bacteria…friendly ones of course! Your gut is a constantly evolving ecosystem – when bad things grow, health deteriorates, but when kept like a weed-free garden, health can thrive.
These friendly bacteria are very helpful, being involved in a number of metabolic processes, all very important to mental as well as physical wellbeing. Bacteria imbalance is now being implicated in depression and anxiety, with probiotics being studied as potential alternatives to antidepressants.
There is also growing evidence to support the role of gut bacteria in influencing why we may crave certain foods. The bacteria are able to produce specific proteins that are similar to those that the body produces to regulate a hunger response. So keeping your but bacteria in good shape, could be one of the keys to not craving sweets, chocolate or other naughty foods, that can then lead to weight gain and other health issues.
It is then interesting to note that half our population complain of some digestive problem in any 12-month period. These problems range from heartburn, diarrhoea, ulcers, irritable bowel or Crohn’s disease, colitis, or even bowel cancer. Research is showing more and more, the link between healthy gut bacteria and the diseases above as well as many, many more.
Looking out for food sensitivities can be an important step in establishing healthy gut bacteria. If you are sensitive to a certain food it can cause unhealthy bacteria causing gas, bloating and upsetting the absorption of nutrients.
Always consult with an expert if you think you have gut issues or associated food sensitivities. Consulting with a naturopath or nutritionist can help you ensure you are still getting all the right nutrients whilst managing the symptoms. Call the Natural Chemist to consult with one of our friendly experts T: 1300 882 303
Your overall diet make-up is also very important. Think balance, variation and nutrient-dense:
- plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit – think colour, texture and variation
- eat legumes a couple of times per week
- ensure your meals are balanced with a good protein portion (the size of the palm of your own hand) with veges and healthy fats
- limit red meat to a couple of times per week, even try having a vegetarian day every 3-4 days
- reduce dairy intake or swap in with sheep’s or goat’s milk products
- remove sugar and refined carbohydrates
- restrict alcohol to 1 standard drink per day maximum and try going as many days as you can without any at all
- drink plenty of water – the average adult needs 2 litres per day and that increased to 3 litres on a hot day or when exercising
It’s not just about what you eat and drink. Ensuring you are sleeping well, not over-stressed and are having enough down time and relaxation all have an impact on the health of your friendly gut bugs.
The reward for this effort is good health, more energy, and importantly, happy, friendly gut bacteria.
If you need some added support you may also want to consider some of the following:
– Probiotics: live bacteria that are good for your gut. Available in a variety of forms in different strengths. Visit the Natural Chemist at: www.naturalchemist.com.au or call us on T: 1300 882 303, to talk to an expert about which one may be right for you. Browse our range of probiotics here.
– Magnesium – the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium plays a role in keeping the muscles in your gut in good shape, ensuring nutrients are absorbed and everything keeps moving
– Vitamin D – important for gut balance and the communication between the bacteria and the body
– EPA/DHA – shown to reduce gut inflammation and increase friendly bacteria. Try Bioceuticals Ultra Clean EPA/DHA or call us for access to one of the practitioner range fish oils
Hechtman L, 2014, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Sydney
Bischoff S, 201, Gut health: a new objective in medicine?, BMC Medicine, 9, 24
Knights, D, 2014, Complex host genetics influence the microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease, Genome Medicine, 6, 107
Gibson D, 2014, Omega-3 Fats May Reduce Risk of Gastrointestinal Diseases, www.issfal.org
Ngoc P et al, 2011, Gut Microbiota, Probiotics, and Vitamin D: Interrelated Exposures Influencing Allergy, Asthma, and Obesity? J Allergy Clin Immunol, 127, 5, pp1087 – 1094.