Your gut & brain

You are what you eat.

Science keeps finding new things about the world we live in every day. But sometimes it seems like the collective knowledge of people through years of experience gets the job done before the lab coats do, especially when it comes to our bodies and behavior. Moms and grandmas has been saying things like “follow your gut”, “the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach” for years. Maybe we didn’t have top-notch microscopes and labs in the past, but we are great observers. Recent studies show you may be carrying a second brain in your stomach.

A gut feeling.
Your body digests about 90% of the food you eat by producing its own enzymes (solvents). The rest of our energy is processed by bacteria living inside your belly. These passengers are known as gut flora, or more recently as the gut biome.

Each person has a different set of bacteria living in their stomach and proportions of each microorganism depend on diet, genetics, and stress levels. However, recent studies show that the more variety of bacteria, the better. A diverse gut biome will give you:

  • increased mental health (focus and memory)

  • lower incidence of obesity

  • reduced risk of cancer

  • prevention of depression

  • better social skills

  • recession in symptoms for autism

Bacteria living in your body have a vested interest in keeping you alive. In exchange for food , they will monitor your body functions and make sure that their home (you) lasts as long as possible. They will also try to find new homes for their offspring such as your friends and babies, these guys get busy. When processing foods, your gut bacteria will take on the following jobs:

  • prevent gut leakage to protect your brain from harmful substances

  • production of vitamins B and K

  • production of metabolites and neurotransmitters

  • process poisons which to cause psychosis and anxiety

The personal managers living in your gut.
You might think that your brain is the mastermind behind what goes on in your body, but your stomach is in charge of making many of the chemicals signaling brain to take action. Recent studies discovered neural paths between the gut and the Vagus nerve (controlling your heart and organs), the endocrine system (controlling your hormones), and the sympathetic system (controlling your fight or flight response).

There have been some giant advances in understanding the influence of our gut biome and its connection to how we manage disease, stress, and emotional stress.

Can you be too careful about germs?
For about two hundred thousand years we survived disease using our sense of smell, taste, and experience to avoid putting dangerous things in our mouths. Drinking water was a little dirty, we ate things that had not been pasteurized or sterilized, and sometimes we got sick. The upside of this was getting a stronger immune system and letting some new bacteria inside our gut. It’s true than an unlucky died every once in a while, so we learnt how to minimize this by processing food and learning more about hygiene. But now we’ve gone too far, I’ve even seen bananas inside a plastic wrapping! I’m not advocating carelessness and lack of hygiene, but there can be too much of a good thing. Treating all bacteria as the bad guys and exaggerating with antibiotics and disinfectants has also limited the amount of good bacteria we have available. Now some people have blasted their system so much that they need a transplant of bacteria through “fecal (poop) transplants” to restore their biome. This is not right.

Of course always clean your food, wash your hands, and avoid spoiled foods. But also try to keep your diet as natural as possible, avoid processed foods, and don’t use antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary.

A lot of the symptoms present in autism have been linked to a lack of diversity in gut flora. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, with people taking antibiotics at he drop of a dime. Don’t believe me? check out the results of this study they carried in Italy.

Taking action for a healthy gut.
It’s a little funny that researchers today are discovering how effective our ancestors were at taking care of themselves. A lot of staple diets around the world are designed to promote good gut bacteria. Try including some of these foods in your diets in order to promote a healthy gut:

  • Prebiotic foods

    • acacia gum (or gum Arabic)

    • raw chicory root.

    • raw Jerusalem artichoke.

    • raw dandelion greens.

    • raw garlic.

    • raw leeks.

    • raw or cooked onions.

    • raw jicama

  • Probiotic (mostly fermented foods)

    • Kefir

    • Kimchi

    • Sauerkraut

    • Miso

    • Kombucha

    • Yogurt (natural with live cultures, not a Danone sugary doppelganger)

Other activities which will ensure a good gut biome are:

  • Exercise, the cheapest and most efficient medicine around

  • Avoid sugars and starches. Bad bacteria are lazy, they love this for energy. And they will promote you wanting more for the same reason

  • Avoid trans fats

  • Include probiotic and prebiotic supplements in your diet (ask me about the Forever Living products, they’ve worked well for me)

  • Avoid using antibiotics unless it is a real emergency. Understand that fixing every disease with antibiotics is like dropping a nuclear bomb on every town you didn’t really like during vacation, it’s an over-reaction. While antibiotics will save lives on occasion, they are hardly necessary for many every-day diseases

The bacteria in your gut biome will dictate the way you act by manipulating your hormones. It’s scary, but true. I struggle with sugar cravings if i indulge too much in desserts and breaking the cycle gives me withdrawal symptoms, but after about two weeks i just stop wanting sweets all that much and I enjoy other foods. This is because the sugar-loving bacteria are dead and the ones which thrive in fats and complex carbohydrates start to thrive. If you are having trouble with energy levels, mood swings, or performance, maybe trying a new diet will make the difference you are looking for.

For more understanding on the subject, try reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome and The Body Ecology Diet.

If you want someone to take the guesswork out of planning your diet, contact our nutritionist to help you better understand what is good for you..

Keep that gut strong, it will give a lot more back to you.


Omar MartinezComment