With the growing interest of the gut microbiome, we are now understanding, through scientific evidence, the role of gut health, and the connection between the Gut and the Brain.
These two systems remain in constant communication to determine our health. For an instant, stress and anxiety can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
This connection involves chemicals signals that occur between the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system via several physiological pathways, such as
- The immune connection
90% of our Immune System is in our gut. Abnormal gut flora can cause the gastrointestinal wall to become inflamed, irritated and “leaky” (known as a leaky gut syndrome), which allows undigested food and microbial toxins to flood into the bloodstream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system and the immune response including the endocrine system.
- The vagus nerve connection.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body and wanders from the brainstem to the lowest viscera of your intestines—it is a two-way communication network between your central nervous system (which includes your brain and spinal cord) and your enteric nervous system (a nerve network in your gut). In general, the gut-brain axis is important regulating gastric and intestinal function and energy homeostasis.
Essentially, there is a physical connection between the emotional centres of the brain and intestinal function. Studies are revealing that the gut microbiota may signal the brain via nerves, hormones, immune responses and antibodies.
- Serotonin and other Neurotransmitters
The gastrointestinal is responsible for producing 80-90% of serotonin – our happy hormone. Any disturbance to the gut microbiome can affect the production of serotonin, which could have a profound effect on our mood.
It gets more interesting, researchers have shown that one strain of bacteria, known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus increased GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes. Alterations to the GABA receptors have been indicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression.
Changes in diet, certain medications, infections, and stress can all impact the microbiome, which may, in turn, have a direct effect on brain function.
So how can we protect and restore our Gut Microbiome?
- Avoid the overuse of prescription drugs such as antibiotics, Oral contraceptive pill, prednisone
- Stress management: Yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation are other adjunctive therapies to calm your body and your mind
- Learn to say “NO”
- Exercise: a good walk on the beach or simply getting out in nature does the body wonders
- Unplug from Social Media
- Diet: Remove processed sugar and processed foods from your diet.
- Increase Prebiotic Foods: are non-digestible food ingredients that can increase the activity of select “good” bacteria (radishes, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus, carrots, sweet potato, onions and garlic are all particularly good)
- Increase Probiotic foods: are live microorganisms – such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi – which in adequate amounts may have health benefits. (fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kombucha and fermented vegetables and cashew cheese).
- Increase good fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, salmon, grass fed meat, organic eggs)
- Probiotic therapy: are live microorganisms with a vast array of therapeuticpotential for restoring the health of your microbiome. See your practitioner for the correct strain for your condition.