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The gut-brain connection is revolutionizing modern medicine’s understanding of health. It seems that each year scientists uncover another level of determining just how connected the gut and brain are. What’s more, the gut’s influence on the body’s central systems is intricately connected. Here’s how.

The Gut: A Second Brain

The second brain inside your gut isn’t a metaphor. The gut and our brain are physically and neurologically linked in various ways. Your intestinal tract is 9 meters long and home to more than 100 million nerve cells, known collectively as the enteric nervous system (ENS). This “second brain” has its own neural network that sends signals back and forth with your central nervous system, or first brain. In fact, the ENS contains more neurons than either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.

The “second brain” is in constant communication with our first one through the central nervous system (CNS) – the spine and the “first brain” – sending chemical messages through neurotransmitters, hormones, and inflammatory responses. These crucial back and forth between determines many things from immunity, disease and vital organ functions. However, when it comes to digestion, the ENS is working mostly on its own.

The Second Brain + Digestion

The significant volume of nuerons in the ENS controls the complex grind of digestion — ‘Breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions that move everything on down the line.’ (Source) In this way the second brain controls behaviour independently of the brain, as this intricate web of nerves have evolved to perform this complex process of digestion ‘on site’ (Source).

The Gut, Emotions and Stress

Part of the intimate connection between the enteric and central nervous systems is the regulation of stress responses and feelings of well-being. When your gut is unbalanced – you feel out of balance. Ninety five percent of serotonin is produced in the gut, which is why people with IBS issues have also experienced mental-emotional symptoms of depression and anxiety. Any irritation in the gastrointestinal system sends direct signals to the CNS and triggers large emotional shifts. Research shows how an unhappy digestive system may negatively affect cognition, thinking skills and even memory [Source]. If your second brain isn’t healthy, your first brain is impacted.

What Does An Unbalanced Gut Look Like?

When a gut is out of balance, all systems are impacted. Here are some easy signs to know if your gut is out of whack:

  • Digestive issues including bloating, nausea and gas after eating. An unhealthy gut struggles to process food and rid of waste
  • Chronic fatigue, coupled with insomnia or restless sleep. With 90% of serotonin produced in the gut, this is the chemical to regulate affective sleep cycles and overall mood; so when the gut is out of whack you might feel sleepy and generally unwell.
  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety and depression.
  • Eczema, acne and skin blotches. Internal unbalances and inflammation are mirrored externally on our face and body. If the gut is in need of a detox, it’ll show up on your skin.
  • Food intolerances and allergies. When the microbiome is out of whack it struggles to break down certain foods, or if left untended could eventually result in leaky gut, leading to serious bloating, foggy head and nausea after eating.

Gut Health 101

To be in balance the gut needs a good variety of bacteria, known as the microbiome. Out of the 40 trillion bacteria in the body, most of them reside in the digestive track. Good diversity in species of bacteria is a key faction in overall healthy gut functioning. Many factors influence gut bacteria.

Let your food be your medicine

Eating a diverse diet consisting of Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition is one of the most reliable and powerful ways to maintain a healthy gut. A diverse microbiome is considered to be a healthy microbiome. Diversifying the food you intake is a simple way to diversify the species of bacteria, leading to health benefits.

Unfortunately the western diet is not very diverse and highly refined. In The Diet Myth Tim Spector wrote “80% of processed food is made up of just four ingredients – corn, wheat, soy and meat”.

Highly processed food and chemicals are virtually unrecognizable to the gut and difficult to digest. This leads to inflammation, indigestion and irregular bowel movements. Food with refined sugar and high sugar content feeds the candida in the gut into yeast overgrowth, causing a mountain of other problems that aren’t easy to ignore. If we let food be our medicine and are consistent with gut-informed choices, the symptoms of an unbalanced gut can be remedied with nutrition and supplements.

Fiber-Rich Foods

Dietary fiber stimulates the growth of diversity of good bacteria in the gut. which reduces the risk of metabolic disease. Found mostly in fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes, notable fiber-rich foods include beets, yams, sweet potatoes, fennel, spinach and carrots.

A high-fiber diet also has a multitude of benefits when it comes to hormonal regulation, weight management and constipation relief. Studies show that it lowers risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Fermented Foods + Probiotics

The gut loves probiotics because of the diversity of good bacteria they contain. Kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, sugar-free yogurt and kefir are great for boosting gut health and decreasing IBS symptoms.

In addition to fermented foods, probiotic supplements are a great way to easily increase the diversity of microbiome. Below are some of the best products to pop into your daily regime.

Best Overall Probiotic Capsules

Best Probiotics with Greens

Best Probiotics for Mood Enhancement (Gluten-Free)

Lifestyle Habits

Your physical, emotional and mental states have a huge impact on gut health. Keeping your stress in check is a sure way to maintain gut health. Regular exercise, excursions in nature, and daily meditation are ways to regulate the nervous system for gut health. Reducing alcohol intake is an important way to improve gut health, as regular drinking can disrupt the healthy balance of microbiome and cause inflammation in the gut, throwing all other systems off balance. Getting 8 hours of sleep per night, as well as incorporating other ways of rest into your routine are great ways to signal to the body that it is safe, so the gut can operate at its optimal function.

Repair The Gut Lining

Since gut health is so entwined with all holistic health, healing the gut is the place to start. It all starts with repairing the gut lining. Over time due to chronic inflammation, eating highly processed foods and consuming toxins in alcohol, you may develop Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). This means the permeability of the gut lining has deteriorated, allowing for pieces of food and intestinal material to float freely though the blood stream.

Approximately 80-90% of westerners suffer from LGS, and while there’s no over-night fix it can be remedied with changes in lifestyle including a focus on diverse, microbiome-promoting whole foods, with the addition of certain supplements into the daily regime. Like all things gut health, the solution is holistic. Below are a couple of proven supplements to aid in the reparation of LGS.

Gut FX Formula for Leaky Gut Repair

Gut Mend Digestive Health for Leaky Gut Repair



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