Your Gut Microbiome and the Gut-Brain Connection
We all know that bacteria are everywhere … literally! There are bacteria on our skin, in our food, in the bathtub, in gardening soil, in the air. Like I said … EVERYWHERE!
In the human GI tract, there are over 100 trillion bacterial cells. I don’t even know how to imagine how much 100 trillion actually is, but I know it’s a lot. I also know that even though it can be kind of weird to think about all of those bacteria hanging out in your gut, most of them are pretty cool.
If you’ve ever read or heard about the gut microbiome, it is a way of talking about all of those viruses, microbes, and bacteria that live in your intestines.The gut-brain axis is the connection between your gut microbiome and your nervous system.
Do My Gut and My Brain Really Talk to Each Other?
They really do, in three basic ways: your neuroendocrine system, nerves, and immune system.
Your neuroendocrine system: the hormones that regulate your metabolism, your response to stress, and your mood are impacted by your gut microbes.
In addition, when they break down fiber, your gut bacteria create SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) SCFAs assist your body in fighting off inflammation. Because there is a correlation between several mental health disorders and higher levels of inflammation, SCFAs can play an important role in mental health.
The nerves in your gut: there are nerves throughout your intestinal tract that send signals between your brain and your gut. The most prominent is the vagus nerve which serves as the major line of communication. The vagus nerve is impacted by your gut microbiome, the movement of waste through your intestines, and hormones. The activity of the vagus nerve is also linked to mood regulation.
The inner walls of your intestines also contain a network of nerves called the enteric nervous system. This system also facilitates the communication between your brain and your gut.
Along with the enteric nervous system, neurotransmitters (think of body chemicals like serotonin and dopamine), send impulses from nerve fibers to the brain, which, again, can impact behavior and mood.
Your immune system: Your gut microbiome plays a major role in the protective mucus layer that is in your gut. That layer of mucus can become weak if you do not have enough bacteria or if you have too many “bad” bacteria present. When that happens, inflammatory molecules have an easier time passing through your gut to other parts of your body … and that includes inflammation that can then travel to your brain.
A Healthier Gut Equals a Healthier You
Your gut microbiome is made up of countless species of bacteria all of which can vary in number and healthiness depending on what you eat, your level of fitness, the amount of stress you are under, and some prescription and OTC drugs. The “good” or healthy gut microbiomes help to keep our bodies healthy … and that includes our mental health.
Studies have even shown that certain mental health issues like anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD can be improved in individuals who make dietary changes (like consuming more fiber, upping Omega-3s, and taking probiotics) to help manage their gut health.
How to Improve Your Gut Health … And Consequently Your Mental Health
A high fiber diet that includes limited amounts of healthy fats can help to increase the levels of “good” bacteria in your gut. This in turn strengthens the layer of mucus, protecting your body from inflammation.
Consider including some of the following in your daily diet/routine:
High-fiber foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and whole grains.
Probiotic foods: kimchi, kefir, miso, yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh.
Anti-inflammatory foods: berries, beans, green tea, flaxseeds, chia seeds, salmon, and walnuts.
Supplements: our busy schedules can sometimes make it hard to incorporate healthy-gut foods every day, but there are definitely supplements that can help. I love the microbiome-boosting nutrition in the GBX Foods™ System and am happy to help you get a discount.
Remember to hydrate. Fiber tends to absorb water as it passes through your intestines. To keep everything moving smoothly, you will want to drink plenty of water in order to avoid any discomfort or constipation.
Physical activity is important. Exercise has been shown to benefit gut and mental health. Try to get some physical activity in every day – find something fun that you enjoy – that counts!
This Is My Passion and I’m Here to Help!
Finding out about the gut-brain connection changed my life and now it is my passion. If you are interested in improving your gut health, your mental health, and your overall wellness, I would love to help you along in your journey. You can schedule a FREE consultation here. Let’s talk!