Don't ignore that "gut feeling/instinct", gut issues are the primary overlooked culprits when it comes to the way we think and feel. Taking care of your gut microbiome = improves your mental and physical health and hormonal balance.
Ever had a "gut feeling" or" "gut instinct"? You may have wondered how this common phrase originated – after all, no one has ever mentioned a "lung instinct" or "kidney feeling." So what exactly is a "gut feeling," and why on earth do we call it that? The gut, aka our digestive system, is known to function as our "second brain." Gut health affects our digestive abilities and everything from our overall health, mood, and how we think/feel. Medical professionals even consider the gut, which contains hundreds of millions of nerve cells, as its own nervous system (enteric nervous system – similar to how the brain in our skull controls our central nervous system).
Attention all women: Poor gut health results in poor mental health/cognition and hormone imbalance. Lack of estrogen regulation and diseases related to the same (breast cancer, hair loss, depression, anxiety, PCOS, etc.) is often connected to issues with the gut. Even when we think we're the poster children of health by taking hormonal and nutritional supplements, these supplements cannot be adequately absorbed if our gut is not in check. The key to maintaining and repairing our gut health (aka our mental + physical health and hormonal balance) is the MVP of this 2nd nervous system – the gut microbiome.
What exactly is a gut microbiome?
Gut microbiota is the digestive system's star student bacteria. This good bacteria, located in the digestive system, is one of the main players in ensuring we are happy and healthy (physically and mentally). A deficient gut microbiome results in increased inflammation, which results in increased physical and mental ailments. So, happy gut microbiome = happy us!
How can gut microbiota affect my mental health and brain activity?
Even though the gut is located relatively far from the more popular brain in our head, it significantly impacts our mental health and the way we think, not just physical health! Of course, the gut affects multiple physical issues like digestion, skin, immune system, weight loss, and a spectrum of other fun ailments. Still, the gut's control over the brain is an important connection that is often overlooked by the general population.
Serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters in charge of making us feel "happy," is created and stored in our gut (95%, in fact!). Of course, life circumstances contribute majorly to our "happiness," but unhealthy gut microbiomes are often the main (and unnoticed) factors of anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue. Not concerned with your mental and emotional health? What about your intelligence/cognitive abilities? The slowing of brain performance, mindfulness, and general awareness (aka your neurological health) is heavily due to the slower production of necessary neuroactive metabolites caused by poor gut function. Smart gut health = smart brain.
Got it! Now, what can I do to improve and maintain my gut health?
Don't worry; poor gut health is reversible! A nutrient-rich diet, paired with gut health supplements, is necessary to repair + maintain healthy gut microbiota. The gut microbiome is typically restored with healthier eating and probiotics.
Foods to add to your diet? Oats, yogurt, onions, chia seeds, fruits (bananas), vegetables (especially celery!), garlic, Kimchi, and Kombucha. And, of course, plenty of water!
Foods to avoid? Reduce your sugars (especially artificial sweeteners!) and simple carbs. Get rid of those pesky trans fats too.
Do I need any supplements, or is food enough?
The right healthy foods can help immensely restore our gut microbiome, but not all of them are fully absorbed by the body. The right supplements are crucial in optimizing gut health to provide the best and most readily apparent mental + physical health results. These gut health supplements can also help compensate for nutrients you might not receive through your diet.
Gut probiotics are widely known for their power to reset your gut microbiome balance. This reset can help treat linked mental health issues like depression and anxiety but also prevent them.
Plant compounds, when consumed regularly, help to stimulate our gut and overall digestive system. Don't worry, no need to grow and extract your own compounds – the necessary nutrients can be found in gut chlorophyll supplements. Time is of the essence. Start with your gut if you're serious about improving your mental, emotional, and physical health. Learn more here!
1. Bonazzi, D.B. (2021). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine. https://magazine.jhsph.edu/2021/gut-microbiome-and-brain.
2. Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). (J. Pelley & A. Skin, Eds.) Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. PubMed Central. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/.
3. Kamiya, A. (n.d.). The Brain-Gut Connection. [online] Hopkinsmedicine.org. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection.
4. Scott, L. A. S. (2021). Gut Health and Hormones. Leigh Ann Scott MD. https://www.leighannscottmd.com/additional-testing/gut-health-and-hormones/#:~:text=When%20gut%20health%20isn’t,endometriosis%2C%20and%20even%20breast%20cancer.