Some Basics about Gut Health
The average person has an estimated 39 trillion bacteria cells in his or her body, which is far more than the number of actual human cells. Much of these bacteria live in your gut. Researchers refer to these cells as your gut microbiome. Your gut has an estimated 500 million neurons, which communicate with your brain via the vagus nerve.
Scientists have discovered that the bacteria in your gut produce chemicals and substances that impact your brain, your brain chemistry, and your mood and mental health thanks to the vagus nerve connection. For example, an imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to increased levels of inflammatory toxins produced by your gut microbes. High levels of those toxins in your gut can lead to inflammation in your brain. This link between a so-called “leaky gut” and brain inflammation can be associated with depressive and anxiety disorders.
What Does Your Gut’s Brain Control?
Now, unlike the big brain in your skull, the ENS (enteric nervous system) can’t balance your checkbook or compose a love note. But it does have a lot more influence on your overall physical AND mental health than you might think. The ENS is two thin layers of nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum. Its main roll is controlling digestion and, while it isn't capable of thought as we know it, it does communicate back and forth with your big brain with profound results.
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. For years common knowledge led us to believe that anxiety and depression brought on problems associated with digestion and bowel health. However, recent research shows evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) which is what actually triggers mood changes.
What Can YOU do to Improve Your Gut Health?
It is important to include probiotics, fermented foods and resistant starches in your diet to support your gut health, but another important food group that has a strong influence on your microbial health are Prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible dietary fibers that we get from food that feed our “good” bacteria. They pass through your digestive system without being digested or absorbed. Think of it as putting Drain-O down a clogged drain. As prebiotics pass through, they don't attach to anything, but rather help stimulate and clean out the system.
What are you doing today that is sabotaging or supporting your gut health and thus significantly impairing or enhancing the state of your mental health?
- Alcohol consumption—which increased during the pandemic—has numerous adverse effects on your gut microbiome. Alcohol doesn’t just compromise the health of your actual digestive organs and gut structure, it also kills beneficial bacteria and encourages the flourishing of harmful bacteria.
- Eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, refined grains, or added sugars
- Eating too many processed foods
- Smoking (many people don’t realize that smoking reduces blood flow to your gut).
If you want to support a healthier gut microbiome and enhance and support your mental health, changing your gut health doesn’t take much time at all, dietary changes can impact your gut health in a matter of a few days. However, if you plan to increase your fiber intake it can be best to add extra sources in gradually.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Get more sleep.
- Move more.
- Manage stress.
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Get Back to Feeling Good!
Remember, your gut microbiome produces a significant amount of serotonin in your body. Serotonin plays a key role in such bodily functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire. A healthy gut microbiome may support better mood regulation and improved mental health. But an unhealthy gut microbiome, or a microbiome that’s unbalanced and has too many toxic bacteria, may be one of the many factors that contribute to mental health disorders and higher rates of anxiety and stress.
The gut-brain connection and how your gut microbiome influences your mood and mental health has been overlooked for too long. Try Greek Island Labs Natural Colon and make taking care of your gut health a priority today.