It seems like everyone is learning about the importance of probiotics and balancing out the gut for improved overall health. This is a great step forward! Over the last 5 years, scientists have dug even deeper in learning about the importance of having a healthy microbiome full of good, diverse bacteria. Scientists are also learning about how probiotics not only help with digestion, but with the way we feel mentally on a day-to-day basis. To understand what this means and why a healthy gut matters, we have to understand about the gut-brain axis.
What is the Gut-Brain Axis
The gut-brain axis is the bidirectional communication pathway between the enteric nervous system (gut) and the central nervous system (brain). The gut communicates with the brain and vice versa by sending signals through a coordinated network of nerves, neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune system cells. Basically, there’s a two-way street between your gut and brain, and the gut-brain axis is how they communicate.
We used to think that the brain was the main source of communication to the rest of the body, but we now know the stomach also sends messages to the brain! This is why what we put in our body plays an important role in not only our physical health, but also our mental health. The two brains work harmoniously together.
Gut-Brain Axis Disruptions
There are things we do that disrupt the balance within the microbiome (gut environment) and the signaling within the axis. Some things that can disrupt the gut-brain axis are:
- highly processed foods (like canola oil, refined sugars, refine grains)
- toxins within the environment
- alcohol consumption
- lack of sleep
- high stress levels
- lack of variety of nutrient-dense foods (like prebiotic foods)
- lack of exercise
How to Strengthen the Gut-Brain Axis
Luckily, there are things we can do to fortify our gut-brain axis! Not only will this create clearer signaling between the gut and the brain, it will increase your immune system and decrease inflammation (Basically make you feel better mentally and physically!)
- Make 75% of your plate vegetables and plant-foods. The fiber in these foods feed your good bacteria. Think of your gut as a garden. What you put in your body will feed either the good or bad bacteria. Let’s not water the weeds (bad bacteria)!
- Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. This is one of the best ways to maintain gut health. Cut out the sugar and refined grains and increase the fiber!
- Eat healthy fats and unrefined oils. (Examples of these are unrefined coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, nut, seeds, and beans.)
- Be smart about supplementing. Don’t take something just because the bottle claims it. Research it! Also, take a high quality probiotic. Know exactly what benefits will come from it. More strains doesn’t necessarily means it’s a better probiotic. Be specific on what strains you will be receiving so you know what benefits you’ll be having. (I’d love to share with you my favorite ones that have been clinically proven to strengthen the gut, brain, and axis. Shoot me a message below…I’d love to hear from you!
- Eat fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso. Yogurt is also great. Eat in moderation and buy plain, full-fat yogurt (least processed). These contain good amounts of probiotics so your good bacteria can multiply!
This is such a pivotal time in history! Understanding the gut-brain axis and its impact on our health opens the doors to people having better health care! It will take years for our healthcare system to make changes…but it’s coming and I can’t wait for the transition occur.
Have more questions about the gut-brain axis?! I’d love to know….
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