Gut Feelings: How Our Digestive System Affects Our Mind
Ever heard of the gut-brain connection? There is actually something going on when you have a gut feeling, since your gut actually affects your mood, intuition, and cognition.
Intrigued? There’s more to going with your gut than you probably realized.
Gut feelings are more than just a saying. The well-being of our digestive system is directly tied to our mood, and is extremely influential on our mental and physical health.
Knowledge of the gut-brain connection has lead some to refer to the digestive system as our second brain. There are over 100 million neurons throughout the digestive system, making it the second most dense neurological structure in our body after our brains.
However, we have discovered more about our guts in the last 5 years than in the last 50, and what we’re discovering is in our gut lies something so influential on our being, it may be even more responsible for who and what we are than the brain itself.
I’m referring to our gut-microbiome: an ecosystem of billions of bacteria which exist in all of us, and are fundamental for our well-being. It may seem odd, but the reality is that in a healthy human, micro-organisms and bacteria outnumber human cells by a ratio of 10 to 1.
Much of this population exists in our digestive system, and they influence everything from our natural inclination towards obesity or leanness, to immune system strength, to inflammation, and even influencing whether we have neurological disorders such as Autism.
Dr. David Perlmutter, author of The Grain Brain, is a celebrated neurologist who began to study the gut brain connection with regard to mental health.
In his career, Perlmutter has found links and been able to successfully treat major neurological diseases such as Autism by addressing the gut biome.
The theory and research is that in our current society, we are not exposed to many of the micro-organisms our bodies have long adapted to work with.
Our obsession with cleanliness and anti-bacterial soaps, and antibiotics is actually in many cases hurting our biology. It saves us from some dangerous germs, but it also removes essential strains of bacteria which are involved in our internal ecosystem.
In a healthy individual, our gut contains a balance of good bacteria which help us create digestive enzymes, get energy from our food, and prevent the gut wall from being damaged by indigestible proteins like gliadin, found in wheat.
Our guts break when we consume too many processed foods, take antibiotics, or miss out on exposure to essential biomes during our lives. Were you or any of your kids born by a C-section? If so, you missed out on exposure to a whole host of bacteria your body was evolved to live with. There are, of course, ways to remedy this, but the high use of the C-section procedure in the U.S. may be linked to all sorts of autoimmune diseases among kids with inadequate gut bacteria.
We can fix and maintain our gut health by making sure we take in good probiotics, as well as high amounts of fermented foods if possible.
In some cases, probiotics can make you feel sick. If this is the case, you may have SIBO, which is a case of too much gut bacteria. SIBO often occurs when the body is exposed to toxins such as mold, which kill off some of the bacteria in your gut, while allowing others to flourish.
These mold resistant bacteria form a film in your gut which causes problems. It may be a good strain of bacteria, but it is overgrown and creates imbalance in your body.
You can address SIBO using natural remedies such as oil of oregano, which is a powerful natural way to heal your gut. It acts as a natural antibiotic which primarily affects bad strains.
You can also acquire what is called leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut happens when the cell wall lining the intestines becomes damaged, allowing larger particles to pass through and cause inflammation.
Leaky gut is less likely to occur when you have healthy gut biome, but it is often caused by the types of food you eat. Leaky gut is caused often by diets high in processed foods or intolerable grains.
As a sidenote, there is another type of food that can cause leaky gut called FODMAPs. FODMAPs are foods that tend to contain fermentable parts which irritate the gut, and some people are particulary sensitive. Often, high FODMAP foods are the cause of bowel sensitivity rather than gluten or other suspected causes.
If you want to see if you might be sensitive to FODMAPs, you can download a list of high FODMAP foods at http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-diet-chart/
For a great article that expands on much of this information, as well as goes into detail on how to fix an unhealthy gut, check out https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2013/07/how-to-fix-your-gut/
I also recommend this podcast episode interview of Dr. David Perlmutter for a mind blowing conversation about how the gut affects mental health and may be the reason for sky-rocketing cases of Autism in 1st world countries https://blog.bulletproof.com/dr-david-perlmutter-autism-alzheimers-the-gut-microbiome-250/
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