Did you know that your gut health is closely connected to your brain health? In fact, scientists are uncovering how the gut microbiota can influence our mood, behavior, and overall mental well-being. The reality is that the gut influences every system of the body. However, today we will focus on and discuss one component: gut care to maximize brain health.
Understand the Gut-Brain Connection
The gut-brain connection is complex, but the basic premise is that the microbes in our gut can influence our brain health. Most people have never even thought or heard about this, but there is scientific evidence to prove its validity. “Recent work has connected the human microbiota — the trillions of bacteria that reside on or inside the body (Mayer et al., 2014) — to many components of health and disease,” says Dr. Philip Strandwitz, a specialist in the microbiome.
Furthermore, studies have shown that certain gut bacteria produce and/or consume neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These neurotransmitters are extremely important for mood regulation, sleep, concentration, sex drive, muscle health, and much more.
In addition to producing neurotransmitters, gut bacteria also affect how we absorb nutrients from our food. They do this by breaking down dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. SCFAs have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may also help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Eat a Healthful Balanced Diet
Foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole organic grains contain dietary fiber, which is essential to keep things moving efficiently. Fiber is a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut. If you do not know which foods or ingredients contain fiber, you can look for products that are labeled “high-fiber” or “good source of fiber.” You can also search for a Fiber ingredient supplier that will help you add fiber to your diet.
Remember, gut health is also dependent on ridding the system of toxins so it can absorb the good stuff. The gut microbiome must stay balanced to absorb and utilize nutrients and those neurotransmitters we spoke of above. We support these processes by choosing quality food. Additionally, try to limit the intake of processed foods and sugar. Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats and additives that damage the gut microbiota. Sugar feeds harmful bacteria and can promote inflammation.
Exercise has numerous benefits for gut health. It helps reduce inflammation, promotes the growth of good bacteria, and improves blood flow to the gut. Exercise also reduces stress levels, which can also benefit gut health. Additionally, as mentioned above, it’s important to keep digestion regular. Exercise promotes a faster and more efficient digestive process.
Get Quality Sleep
I feel like I say this all the time, but getting quality sleep is essential for general health…period. But, let’s highlight one part of this…good sleep patterns promote gut and brain health at the same time. When we are sleep deprived, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol damages the gut microbiota and promotes inflammation. So aim to get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night.
Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress can damage the gut microbiota and lead to imbalances, inflammation, and interrupted digestion. I feel confident to say that we likely have all experienced some type of gut imbalance or issues. If so, you understand how even a common tummy ache can throw you off for the whole day. One reason is that your brain has to process what’s happening and try to keep the balance in other areas of the body. If you experience stress frequently, try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can benefit gut health by replacing what has been lost or out of balance. They have been shown to reduce inflammation and even improve mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression in some cases. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. You can also take a probiotic supplement. Look for a supplement that contains at least 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per serving. These supplements are available in specialized formulas to meet varying needs.
**** This post is strictly informational and is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Women’s lifelink, its owners, administrators, contributors, affiliates, vendors, authors, and editors do not claim that this information will diagnose, treat, or improve any condition or disease.