With the variety of things that wreak havoc on our digestive systems these days, it may seem impossible to try to get back in balance and restore yourself to optimal health. But it’s not just about digestive issues alone, as gastrointestinal health can be the root cause for many other health issues including brain and mental health.
The health of your gastrointestinal system is extremely important to your overall well-being.
Digestion, mood, health, and even the way people think is being linked to their “second brain,” i.e. their gut, more and more every day.
The connection between gut health and mood has been known for some time, as individuals suffering from bowel-disorders such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or leaky gut are more likely than others to also suffer from autoimmune diseases and mental issues such as depression and anxiety. Symptoms related to poor gut health can be as obvious as abdominal pain, bloating after meals, reflux, or flatulence, but also less obvious like headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and immune system weakness.
What is a microbiome?
Your body is full of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. They are collectively known as the microbiome. Trillions of these microbes exist mainly inside your intestines and on your skin. Most of the microbes in your intestines are found in a “pocket” of your large intestine called the cecum, and they are referred to as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to all of the microbes in your intestines, which act as another organ that’s crucial for your health.
Why do we refer to the gut as the ‘second brain?’ Well…the gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves. Therefore, the gut microbiome may also affect brain health by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves. A number of studies have shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to healthy people. This suggests that the gut microbiome may affect brain health.
However, it’s unclear if this is simply due to different dietary and lifestyle habits.
A small number of studies have also shown that certain probiotics can improve systems of depression and other mental health disorders.
There are several ways to improve your gut microbiome:
-Eat a diverse range of foods
-Eat fermented foods
-Consume prebiotic foods
-Implement more plant-based foods into your diet
-Limit use if antibiotics when you can
The Long and Short of it is….
The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health.
An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders.
To help support the growth of healthy microbes in your gut, eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods.