Most people are surprised to know how much our gut has an influence on our central nervous system! Get the best out of your health, and learn how to take care of it in our latest blog:
Taking care of your gut has an important role in helping your mental and emotional wellbeing. Find out how:
Mental / Emotional Stress
Mental/emotional stress is commonly and mistakenly blamed on psycho-social issues alone. It is of course important to address these issues, however we must also consider the health of our gut. The main reason is that our gut is the source of our ‘happy chemical messengers’, such as serotonin and dopamine.
The stars of the show in creating these feel good messengers in our gut are our commensal bacteria! There are many benefits to these good gut bugs; (as well as involvement in the production of serotonin and dopamine) they prevent bad bugs from over colonising and causing illnesses, aid in digestion of some foods, and can manage appetite by keeping a good balance of ‘satiety’ hormones.
Our gut bugs are also referred to as the microbiome, and its ability to thrive is dependent on our environment.
Our gut is the source of our ‘happy chemical messengers’, such as serotonin and dopamine.
Environmental & Social Factors
Various environmental factors such as mode of birthing delivery, breast milk, stress, diet and medications can greatly influence the development of our gut microbiome and potentially make us more prone to certain diseases. Our microbiome can teach immune cells to identify harmful invaders, for example.
Depression and anxiety is sadly on the increase. The changes in our social environment have been drastic since 2020, but as well as the sudden reduction in socialising, we have introduced a sudden increase in sanitising.
Over-sanitising can cause problems to our microbiomes. Adding probiotics and prebiotics to our nutritional regime is one way to help! (See below for examples).
So, can prebiotics or probiotics help?
Studies have shown that probiotics can reduce anxiety and OCD like behaviour, and can even normalise emotion related behavioural development after early life trauma.
Consumption of probiotics can alter activity in areas of the brain involved in cognitive functions. Change in diet can also have a profound and rapid effect on the structure of the gut microbiome, and these changes have been shown to influence memory and learning.
Absence of a normal gut microbiome in early life, significantly impacts our stress responses later on in adulthood.
A fascinating research study done in 2004 showed the differences in behaviour between germ free and non-germ free laboratory mice. The mice lacking a microbiome showed an exaggerated stress response. This was reversed when their gut was colonised by a bifida bacterium species. Elimination of the gut microbiome in mice resulted in problems with spatial and working memory.
In other studies, diet modifications also changed the performance of mice on memory tasks. It is well known that the gastrointestinal system communicates with the brain. The communication is via the gut’s own nervous system, called the ‘Enteric nervous system’ (ENS). The ENS has a mesh of 500 million neurons – that’s 5 times as many neurons as there are in your spinal cord!
No wonder the ENS is sometimes called the second brain! It can operate autonomously, or ‘on it’s own’ for various functions. It communicates with the brain, and this biochemical signalling between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system is called the gut-brain-axis. However, it is only now being realised just how much of an affect the microbiome has on the brain and it is therefore now being termed the microbiome-gut-brain-axis.
Adding probiotics and prebiotics to our nutritional regime is one way to help
So, how can you maintain the health of your gut microbiota?
Eat a healthy diet to include fermented foods (such as Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh), and prebiotic foods that stimulate the growth and activity of your gut microbiota (such as garlic, chicory, bananas, asparagus, apples and cocoa)
Use a probiotic supplement, such as Fos-a-dophilus – available in clinic!
Avoid overuse of antibiotics, where possible.
It is worth speaking with a professional.
Our in-house nutritionist, Marilyn, is here to help.
So please consider contacting her for a full consultation to get the best eating plan that’s right for you.
There are lots of things you can do to improve your gut health. In making even small changes you can have a big impact on your overall health in both body and mind. Give it a try!
Article is written collaboratively by Marilyn Firth & Dr Penny Clark.
Marilyn is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, and one of our Chiropractic Assistants; she enjoys yoga, water-sports (when she gets the opportunity!), reading and theatre. Dr Penny is one of our Chiropractors here; she enjoys running with her dog, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Crossfit and Yoga.