Why is Your Gut Your Second Brain?Ann
Today, I’m going to talk about a very hot topic, gut health, that you might have heard or read a lot in your Facebook or Instagram feeds. I got curious myself about the importance of having a healthy gut and wanted to understand why people call gut as our “second brain”. So, I have done a lot of research and read various journal articles and scientific research studies to help you understand the functions of our gut, what’s inside the gut, and how gut wellness impacts our health.
What is the gut? Gut (or belly, tummy – call it your way) is 9 metres long, stretching from your oesophagus to your anus1, responsible for the breakdown of the food we eat. It controls the movement of all the digestive tissues and the circulation of nutrients. So, we should choose our foods carefully to not upset this incredible organ as it does an amazing job in our body. But our guts don’t write a love note, don’t cook beautifully delicious pasta, don’t shop at local farmers markets, don’t make executive decisions. So, is this merely an exaggeration to say that our gut is our second brain? Well, science has this claim backed up.
- There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria in our guts
This ecosystem, or enteric nervous system (ENS), comprises about 100 million neurons2, and it communicates with bacteria in our gut. But they’re not the bacteria or microbiome that scare us off. They’re our good friends, they produce vitamins, break down our food and defend against unfriendly outsiders like viruses that cause illness. That said, to keep us healthy, these gut-dwelling bacteria need to be healthy and plentiful or we’ll feel unwell. If they’re depleted – usually because of poor diet, stress, medications like antibiotics – different health problems might occur. Obvious problems related to poor gut health are bloating, reflux, abdominal pain. Less obvious problems are headaches, fatigue, joint pain and a weak immune system.
To nourish and promote friendly bacteria in your gut, consuming probiotics -live bacteria that help your digestive system – is recommended by many nutritionists and dieticians. Yoghurt has long been believed to pack with strains of probiotics that are helpful to our immune system and gut health3. Many yoghurts in supermarkets, however, are simply another version of sweetened milk product. In order to choose the helpful yoghurt for your gut, follow the FDA guideline and look for one of these two bacteria types in the packaging: Streptococcus thermophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus4. Alternatively, adding pre/probiotics in your daily diet is a good way to ensure an ultimate healthy gut. This supplement helps to keep your second brain full of useful bacteria it needs to function properly.
- Our gut health affects our mood
Because serotonin (or 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT as science calls it) – a neurotransmitter that is mainly found in the brain, bowels, and blood platelets is a key player in mood, anxiety, fear, and our general sense5. Low serotonin levels have been shown as a common contributor to certain types of mood problems and depression6. Interestingly, a study in Cell Journal in 20157and a research done in Caltech published in this same year8 found that approximately 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. These studies have revealed an intimate connection between two important brains in our body.
The effect of gut health on brain is pretty direct. Remember when you’re hungry, you thought of eating your favourite dishes and stomach juice was released even before you could grab foods? And remember the time when you felt butterflies in your stomach in your first presentation or before an important interview? There’re not any butterflies in our stomach, this is because the brain and the digestive system are closely connected9. Gut-brain connection is both ways. When you’re suffering from stomach distress, you can have a headache or feel depressed. In like manner, when you’re working long hours, not eating properly, you may have heartburn, leaky gut or other gut-related problems.
Want to improve your gut health and don’t know where to start? Check out the Real Food Rockstar course from Low Tox Life.
- Gut wellness impacts mental health
There’re also different studies that examined the relationship between gut wellness and brain-related diseases.
Parkinson’s is one of those. The key cause of this disease has long been believed to originate from the loss of neurons producing dopamine, a molecule involved in many functions10. However, even though Parkinson’s is caused by the brain abnormalities, it doesn’t mean that the process starts in the brain. A large-scale study in the US11 found out that intestinal inflammation from gut microbes could give rise to Parkinson’s disease. Their data was collected from 144,018 individuals with ulcerative colitis and it showed a 28% higher prevalence of Parkinson’s in those with inflammatory bowel diseases. This result was in line with another study published on the Science Translational Medicine12 early this year which indicated that these two diseases share genetic links
Autism is another. Considerable research has linked reduced diversity of gut microbiome to autism. In specific, gut problems such as constipation and gut pain are more common in children with autism13. A convincing explanation is that problematic gut bacteria might contribute to autism symptoms by triggering inflammation that reaches the brain. Other interesting research findings revealed that mum with an unhealthy gut can increase the risk of having kids with autism14. The microbiome can shape fetus’s brains in multiple ways. Most importantly, they’re essential in building up the immune system that responds to injury and stress. Good news is that the microbiome can be modified easily either through diets or probiotic supplements. So, mums, if you’re still reading up to these lines, pay extra attention to your pregnancy diets as it’s extremely important to your baby’s development and prevention of diseases.
Pursuing a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet is undeniably one of the best solutions for a healthy gut. Unfortunately, there’re too many so-called healthy diets out there that might confuse you. You probably don’t know which one is right for your body type and your needs. Sticking to low-carb diets might drive you crazy. Do not fret about it! Check out the Real Food Rockstar course from Alexx Stuart at Low Tox Life. She’s one of the pioneers leading the healthy eating and sustainable living way in Australia. The course is equipped with facts, unbiased research and delicious inspiration and confidence.
Set yourself free, fall in love with healthy foods to have a happy gut, happy mind with this course! If you have any questions for me or Alexx, please let us know in the comments below xx.