Gut health has been building steam as a trending health topic as more and more research points to the importance of the microbiome. Micro - what? Microbiome is a fancy word for the trillions (yes, trillions!) of microbes that live in your gut, on your skin and elsewhere.
Your gut health affects everything from your immune system, to your weight, to your brain function, so it’s really important to focus on what’s going on in your belly. Or shall I say what’s going INTO your belly.
It may sound crazy to think that your digestion controls all of the above mentioned, but actually, scientists have discovered that the microbes in your gut are engaged in a constant conversation with your mind. And that chatter could be affecting your emotions, moods and behavior in major ways.
It turns out that your gut’s got its very own nervous system, called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). It’s so influential on your body that it’s often referred to as “the second brain.” The main job of the ENS is to regulate digestion, but it also sends up regular signals to the brain via the vagus nerve.
Think of the vagus nerve as a busy two-lane highway. Traffic is moving in both directions, but it’s much heavier headed north, to the brain. Who’s directing that flow of traffic? Your microbes, of course.
Studies have shown that changing the makeup of gut microbiota actually changed how mice behaved, affecting anxiety and cognition, for instance*. Mice raised without beneficial microbes also have been shown to be less capable of managing stress**.
Another example: 90% of the mood-balancing neurotransmitter serotonin is made in the gut, and research has shown that microbes play a critical role in its production***. So, if yours are not doing their job well, your body could end up with inadequate serotonin. That’s a problem since serotonin regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and more.
Here are four ways to take steps in the right direction towards regulating a healthy microbiome.
1. Add fermented foods to your diet. These are foods like kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. These foods begin with a live active culture and are fermented, giving them the benefit of probiotics.
2. Eat fiber. Many fibers are considered to be prebiotics. This means that they feed the good bacteria already present in your gut. But different fibers feed different bacterium, so it’s important to get these prebiotics from multiple sources and from a variety of foods.
3. Drink lots of fluids. Our bodies need water for skin health, immunity and energy, but also to push things along through digestion. So while we need the bacteria for gut health, we also need the fluids to keep everything moving as it should.
4. Take a probiotic daily. You can think of adding this supplement as a bit of an ‘insurance policy’ to make sure that you’re balancing the bacteria in your gut every day, no matter what. I wholeheartedly recommend Probiotic Supplement, which has a proprietary 5-strain blend with 25 billion CFUs guaranteed. Plus, it's made in the USA!
Keri Glassman MS.RD.CDN
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