How a trillion bacteria contribute to your inner health plus your overall wellbeing
Call it what you want – a hunch, intuition, or an inkling – but we’ve all had a gut feeling before.
Perhaps it was about what to have for lunch today (I had sushi; it was a good choice). Or perhaps it was about something more significant: whether to change careers, or move to Paris for summer, or lease a jet ski for a year, or sell home-bottled pickles door to door.
Here’s something that will surprise you: lots of those gut feelings might literally come from your gut.
Let that sink in. Usually when we say ‘I have a gut feeling about this’, what we mean is I have thoughts and ideas, and I’m not sure how they got there or why I believe in them so strongly.
But those ‘gut feelings’ still originate 100% in the brain, right?
Well, not quite.
The brain-gut connection
Research has shown that your gut – or your gastrointestinal tract, if you want to sound as sophisticated as the doctors who have done the research – actually shapes your brain.
The American Psychology Association explains it like this. Imagine that aliens came to Earth to get to know the locals. After some intense study – but friendly study; these are nice aliens – they come to a remarkable conclusion: for every human cell in your body, there are ten single-celled organisms, mostly bacteria. And many of these bacteria live in your gut.
If these aliens kept researching they would discover something amazing about the gut: they would find out that it is a ‘stunningly complex neural network capable of leveraging this bacterial ecosystem for the sake of both physical and psychological well-being.’
In other words, your gut is helping you think and it is helping you feel.
Perhaps the ancient Greeks had it right: they thought that our deepest, most passionate thoughts came from our guts. Anger was said to come from the gut … but so did mercy, compassion, and love.
What do scientists call the link between the brain and the gut? Well, they are scientists, not poets (apologies to those who are both!), so they call it the brain-gut connection.
Know thy gut
Given how important your gut is, it’s important to get to know it.
I remember once when I was going through a tough time, a friend told me that I wasn’t alone. This is probably one of the most powerful things that one friend can say to another.
But my friend was absolutely right in another way, too. None of us are ever alone because in our gut we carry trillions of little friends (or if you want to use the correct term, trillions of microorganisms or microbiota). These microorganisms communicate with other parts of your body – and your brain – to keep everything running smoothly and to send vital pieces of information to where it needs to go.
There’s more to your gut than your large intestine, but this is where many of the microorganisms call home. It’s like a little commune for good bacteria – only, it’s not exactly little. We’re talking about trillions here.
If terms like microorganisms, microbiota, and bacteria make you feel a little unwell, I suggest you think of them as the Good Gut Gang. If you’ve seen an ad for inner health plus probiotics, you’ll probably be picturing some friendly round blobs.
What are the Good Gut Gang up to right now?
I’ve seen photos of these amazing glass-bottom boats in Fiji. When you’re in them, you can see all the way down to the reef below – a world teeming with colour and life and movement.
I’m not sure whether you’d want the equivalent of a glass-bottomed boat for your gut! But if you could see what was going on – and if everything was going right – you’d see the Good Gut Gang doing what they do best:
- Keeping your immune system in the loop. Around two-thirds of all your immune cells are concentrated around your gut. This is no accident. Why do your immune cells love to live in the same neighbourhood as your gut? It’s because your gut sends vital information to your immune system to keep you fit as a fiddle.
- Giving your emotional wellbeing the boost it needs. Because of the brain-gut connection, it’s no surprise that there are connections between your emotional wellbeing, your brain health, and your gut.
- Making sure digestion runs as smoothly as possible. I said earlier that you probably wouldn’t want a glass-bottom boat equivalent of the human gut, and this is why! You really don’t need to see the gut in action as it digests your food. But you certainly do need your gut to do a good job. A healthy gut plays an important role in digestion, and it ensures that you take the vitamins and acids that you need from your food.
When Gut Goes Bad
Of course, everything that I’ve said so far applies to your average healthy gut – a gut with a harmonious balance of good bacteria.
What happens when things get out of balance? This is called dysbiosis. You might notice that it sounds like the words dysfunctional, or dystopia. That gives you a picture of the problem.
A variety of factors can cause your gut to get out of balance. Stress, poor diet, and low fibre intake are potential causes. The use of antibiotics also can seriously disrupt your gut. Now, don’t get me wrong: antibiotics are a medical marvel. Imagine a world without them. In fact, you don’t even need to imagine: simply read the tragic stories from the past of people suffering with illness and infections that we treat with relative ease today.
When the balance of good bacteria gets disrupted, the problem isn’t just isolated to your gut. Think about what we’ve seen so far: your mind, your wellbeing, and your immune system might be impacted as well.
So, how do you protect the health of your gut? Firstly, if you have concerns about your gut health, you should speak to a trusted medical professional. Many Australians take supplements like Inner Health Plus probiotics, and these might be suitable for you.
Here’s some other steps that could give the Good Gut Gang a boost:
- Embrace your inner rabbit. Increase your intake of green food and whole grains. Do rabbits eat whole grains? This one does.
- Consider your fibre intake. Many Australians do not reach their recommended intake of fibre. It might be time to stop skipping breakfast (a large flat white doesn’t count) and start the day the fibre way.
- Release the pressure valve. In other words, find time to relax! The brain-gut connection is a two-way street. Just as your gut influences your brain, your brain influences your gut. Stress is related to the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, both of which can make your gut more sensitive to inflammation.
- Get those steps up. Exercise is an amazing thing. It’s good for your gut, good for your heart, good for you. Many Australians don’t exercise enough, and no, it’s not because we’re lazy – it’s because we’re busy. We forget to carve out in our day to get active. Well, here’s another reason to add to your list of reasons to get active: exercise helps the gut. And when you help the gut, the gut helps you.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that Inner Health Plus is one of our most popular products! Of course, always use as directed, and see your healthcare professional as symptoms persist. In the meantime, maybe spend some time in awe of your gut.
All the best.
Image Sources by: Freepik
Image Author: @val-suprunovich