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Eat Yourself Healthy

Why your gut IS your second brain

Why your gut IS your second brain

Did you know that the function of your gut could be affecting the function of your brain, and the food you eat each day, can have a direct effect on your mood!  When you consider that the incidence of anxiety and depression has reached epidemic levels in western countries, and antidepressant and anti anxiety medications are amongst the most commonly prescribed drugs, the question we need to ask ourselves is, what is driving this epidemic and what can be done to turn it around?

Well the answer lies largely in the fact that we have a second brain hidden within the walls of our gut – or what scientists refer to as the enteric nervous system (ENS).  The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract  – spanning from the esophagus through to the rectum, and science is finally beginning to understand the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way a person thinks, through researching the gut and what resides within it.

I’ve talked about how the gut is the most critical of all the body systems, in shaping and determining our overall health for the throughout my entire career, and how the trillions of microorganisms contained within it, govern the function of each and every cell within your body. The majority of the microorganisms within your gut are not only essential for good health, but when the balance of your beneficial bacteria is disrupted, illness and disease can occur within both the body and the brain.

How your gut influences your brain

The main role of the brain within your gut is to control every element of the process of digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food, to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption, through to the elimination of waste. But what many people don’t realise, is that the brain within your gut can also trigger changes in your emotions and mood.  This is especially evident in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or regular constipation, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain.

Science has now found a link between mood changes and our gut, caused by chronic inflammation within the gastrointestinal system.  Ongoing inflammation within the gut, (caused by certain medications, pathogens, and foods like sugar, cow’s dairy, artificial additives and gluten), trigger signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that result in mood changes and disruption to our cognitive function – memory, motivation and concentration.  These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems, develop depression and anxiety.

How Your Gut Can Affect Your Metabolism

Did you know that your food choices have the power to alter the balance of your gut flora?  If you’re someone who eats a high-vegetable, fibre-based diet, the composition of your gut flora will be different to those who consume a standard western or SAD diet, which is high in processed sugar, artificial additives and vegetable oils.  Research has now found a link between obesity and specific strains of bacteria living within your gut, and these specific bacteria have an effect on your metabolism. So the more you feed these strains of bacteria with high sugar, processed foods, the more likely you are to become overweight, even obese!

Your nervous system and gut are also wired to react to certain foods – for instance have you ever had an experience where you ate something, like a big bowl of pasta, or a sugar laden dessert, and later felt fuzzy in the brain, or completely deflated of energy, maybe even down in the dumps?  Well this is the brain in your gut reacting to the food you just ate and sending signals to your brain.

Fix Your gut  fix your brain

The gut–brain connection is a two-way street, in that your brain sends signals to your gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea.   Signals also travel the opposite way – from your gut to your brain! So by changing the environment within your gut, you can change the way your brain functions and reduce the risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, even neurological diseases such as alzheimer’s and dementia.

Repeated courses of antibiotics cause absolute devastation to the integrity of the gut wall and the balance of microorganisms within it, and this can have a direct affect on the function of the brain.  When you consider that antibiotics are used extensively in childhood, often from birth and in treating recurrent respiratory tract and middle ear infections – it stands to reason that the long term effect antibiotics have on the gut, can transpose to the function of the brain. Repeated courses of antibiotics is likely to be the explanation for why so many of us experience digestive related problems from such a young age, and can later go on to develop anxiety and depression.

By fixing your gut, you will ultimately fix your brain, and unless you address your gut health and diet, you will struggle to obtain balanced moods and optimal cognitive function, as well as a strong immune system and a healthy weight. So if you haven’t already tried my complete gut repair and detox pack, or signed up for my next 6WK Eat Yourself Healthy program, perhaps now you will have a greater understanding of how essential your gut health in looking and feeling your best bost physically and emotionally.

 

All Rights Reserved Copyright Sally Joseph 2015

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