There are few more interesting areas of research in modern medical science than the connection between your brain and your gut. We have long known that the central nervous system was comprised of the brain and the spinal cord, but only recently have we discovered that it actually extends down into your gut. Known as the enteric nervous system, it runs along the entire digestive tract: oesophagus to anus. While that might make some of you squirm a little bit, the implications are massive. The same neurons that fire in your brain to affect your physical and mental health are found in your gut, which is why some experts are calling it your second brain.
So what is your gut?
It is a name for your intestinal tract, and it is made up of trillions of micro-organism (mainly bacteria). Before you get too concerned, this is actually good bacteria. They help you to digest your food, and absorb all the nutrients as efficiently as possible. Similar to a blood type or a fingerprint, everyone has a unique microbiome that is made up of different proportions of different kinds of bacteria, and this is a large reason why we all have such different experiences of health. You see, research is beginning to show that your microbiome affects your metabolism, your weight, your immune response to sickness, as well as the functioning of your brain and mood regulation. Imagine all of these things operating at an optimal level: healthy, slim and happy. On the flipside, imagine all of these functions in crisis in your body: overweight, unwell and unhappy. Clearly, this matters.
What does it do?
There is still a fair bit to learn here. In ten years, this will be much more clear, but in the meantime, we can be certain that a properly functioning gut should act as a gatekeeper, making sure that you are absorbing good nutrients and holding back the bad, and by ensuring that toxins stay out of your bloodstream.
How do we get our microbiome?
In some ways, it is genetic, beginning to form whilst you are still in the womb. Some of it will be passed on down from your parents, and their physical health at the time of birth will continue to shape your gut bacteria. This shaping of your microbiome continues in the immediate aftermath of birth. It changes depending on whether you were delivered vaginally or via caesarean, and whether you were bottle or breastfed. Obviously, sometimes you don’t get a choice in the matter, but the research suggests that the ‘natural’ methods are more beneficial with regard to the development of a healthy gut biome. If you didn’t take these options, don’t panic. It is by no means a ‘bad’ option for your baby.
Do I have any control over my gut health?
Of course! These genetic factors are only part of the story. Your lifestyle plays a massive role. Firstly, you can take proactive steps to make sure that you have a good number of healthy bacteria in your gut. Inner Health Plus Probiotics is a good way of flooding your gut microbiome with healthy bacteria. This is especially important if you have recently taken a course of antibiotics. Obviously we are pharmacists, and have the greatest respect for antibiotics, but they should only be used when necessary because they act as a nuclear bomb to your gut. In the process of ridding your body of the sickness, they also wipe away many of the 40 trillion bacteria in your gut. Inner Health Plus Probiotics is a must to repopulate your gut with the helpful bacteria that will keep you healthy in the long run. While Inner Health Plus Probiotics are an incredibly helpful supplement, you can also get these in your diet if you know what to look for. Here are a few tips:
- Eat widely. If you are trying a wide range of foods, you are more likely to populate your gut with a diverse range of good bacteria. Much like society, it is better when it is diverse and multicultural. Sadly, our western diet tends to drive us towards the same products over and over. Recent estimates have it that 75% of the world’s food is produced from only 12 plants and 5 different kinds of animals. In fact, diets in Africa and South America tend to produce a richer, more diverse microbiome than those of Europe, Australia and North America. The lesson? If you come across fried cricket or sauteed frog, it won’t do any harm to your gut to give it a go.
- Load up on wholegrains, veggies and fruit. These tend to be high in fibre, which can only be broken down by certain bacteria in your gut. Like a muscle, this prompts their growth and multiplication. Aim for things like: raspberries, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, apples, whole grains and artichokes. This will give you all the good bacteria whilst also preventing the growth of the bad kind that causes the development of disease.
- If it is fermented, it is for you. Fermented foods contain a bacteria called lactobacilli which enhances the function and composition of the microbiome. If you can, try to include a lot of the following in your diet: Yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut. It doesn’t hurt that every single one of these foods are delicious.
What should I avoid?
That these are bad for you should not come as a surprise, but the fact that they also influence your microbiome might be news.
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Not enough sleep
- Too much stress
- Relying on antibiotics too readily
So there you have it. Your gut health is absolutely crucial, and while some aspects are genetically determined, there is so much you can do to yourself. Whether it be a supplement like Inner Health Plus Probiotics, or whether you adjust your diet, you can make sure that your life is long, happy and healthy thanks to a healthy and balanced gut.