Not many people are aware of the intimate relationship between your gut and brain. Believe it or not, scientists have proven that good gut health is directly correlated with positive mental function and overall health. The reason behind this is because your intestinal tract contains hundreds of different kinds of bacteria that all have a role in your health, whether it be good or bad. The food that we eat has a major impact on whether or not there is a proper balance of the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut. This is important because the bacteria will determine whether we're going to have a healthy brain or not, whether our brain is going to function well or not, and whether our brain is going to become diseased or not.
A part of the relationship between our guts and brains is that the bacteria are creating up to 80-90% of neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. As you might already be aware of, these are some of the chemicals that make us “feel-good” and happy. They also play a role in manufacturing vitamins that help maintain the strength of your gut lining. This is crucial because when your gut lining becomes compromised, you end up with permeability or leakiness of the gut. This increases inflammation, which is a cornerstone of virtually all brain disorders, from Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis (MS), to Parkinson's and autism.
The microbiome in your gut contains 99% of the DNA in your body which is highly responsive to the certain foods that you are eating. Surprisingly, the bacteria in our gut actually influences all the genes that we have. These bacteria bugs are changing our genome expression at each moment in time. For so many years our genome had not changed at all, however, now our gut bacteria are beginning to change our DNA coding for things like free radicals, oxidative stress, and inflammation from all the bad foods we are eating. This leads to a lot of different diseases being developed within our bodies.
So you might be wondering, what steps do I take to insure that I have the right balance of bacteria to maintain my health? First, you can try to eat foods that are rich in probiotics. Probiotics are live yeast and bacteria that help support good digestive health. They play a role in maintaining the gut lining as well as serve as natural antibiotics and antivirals, regulate the immunity and control inflammation.
Another recommendation is to go on a low-carb diet and embrace high-quality fats. The point is to try and keep your blood sugar in balance, which will reflect balance in your gut. This can be obtained by eating high-fiber foods like whole vegetables and fruits. The fiber will help produce the proper balance between short-chain fatty acids to keep the intestinal lining in check. Diets that are high in sugar and low in fiber lead to unwanted bacteria that can cause permeability in the gut, a compromised immune system, and widespread inflammation that can potentially reach the brain.
Consuming foods rich in prebiotics can also be very beneficial to your gut health. Prebiotics are essentially food-borne fuel for the good bacteria in our gut. They can be found in things such as raw garlic, cooked and uncooked onions, artichokes, leeks and many other foods. It is said that in every 100 grams of prebiotic carbs that we ingest, 30 grams of good gut bacteria are produced. Consumption of prebiotics can also lead to other positive health benefits such as: reduced inflammation in inflammatory-bowel disorders, enhanced mineral absorption, and promoted sense of satiety.
A last important thing to do that many people do already is to drink filtered water. Obviously drinking plenty of water is good for your body regardless, however, you want to ensure that the water does not contain any gut-busting chemicals like chlorine. Environmental toxins can have negative effects such as disrupting your microbiome and your brain physiology. This can be achieved by either simply purchasing a filtration device such as a pitcher. Just be sure to regularly maintain and change the filter so that it is always doing its job.
By having some discipline with our diet, it can have an enormous impact on not only the health of our guts, but our brain and behavior as well. Although it may not be easy for everyone to maintain a discipline and healthy diet, it is important for people to know how the food we eat affects our bodies, both positively and negatively. This can potentially save your body of disease and will overall improve your general health.