Yet again today I got to work on a client and their gut, my favourite place to start from, why? Because it’s so so important to the overall health of the body! Have you ever said to yourself that you had a gut feeling about something? Well you wouldn’t be far wrong to be honest, because our guts have a sheath of neurons embedded in the lining, so just thinking that your gut is just busy digesting your dinner, would be understating how important its role really is. In times of anxiety and stress, where does it tend to hit, most probably you are experiencing it in the gut, sometimes the chest, but mostly people say the gut, so don’t be surprised by the fact that it’s influencing our mind more than we realise. Many are starting to call it the second brain, and with the potential to have over 100 million neurons it can control the behaviour of the actual gut itself, and it’s felt that a big part of our emotions are influenced by the nerves in the gut not by the mind. Makes you wonder where your mind truly is and the claims that psychologists make that depression is just a chemical imbalance in the brain is starting to look outdated and inaccurate when you start to see the plethora of research showing its linked with the health of the gut.
So targeting the gut is a good thing to be doing with your dietary approach, particularly if you are someone who has depression, when you start to realise that 95% of your serotonin is created in the gut area it makes total sense really. For those of you who may have taken SSRI’s or antidepressants and then found you’ve had IBS type issues, no longer be surprised, because they are bound to have an effect there. Focusing on foods that support the gut, are going to have a great effect on how your mental state is.
What I’m really saying here is that you are probably right to be going with your gut, how it feels is probably giving you a fairly good reaction to what you are truly thinking. Your gut and digestion is highly likely to be giving you a good indication of your stress levels, and thinking about something you are doing. Stress as many of us know has a massive impact on our health, as many have said it can be a killer, and when stress kicks in, often so do the digestive problems along with it. From acid reflux, to belching, explosive moments on the loo to 3 days of constipation and counting, many of you will have experienced what stress can do to the gut. Our bacteria outweigh the amount of cells our body has, and there are masses in the gut area, that bacteria is finely tuned, and any imbalance can lead quickly to emotional and behavioural changes. The bacteria develop over time in the gut are and it goes from being sterile at birth to having a whole host of friends and foe held within it, that do everything from digesting vitamins and minerals, to regulating your metabolism and digestion, to programming your immunity. So it’s an important arena to keep healthy, because your decision making, mind set, and emotional behaviour all are influenced by it, and it’s foolish to think otherwise really. A piece of research in 2011 carried out on mice, showed that when they were fed a series of antibiotics that changed the gut flora their shy and retiring behaviours changed to ones where they almost became the Clark Gable of the mouse world, and it changed their moods and memory. So if your gut is a bit off, then it’s highly likely the rest of your behaviour and responses are going to be too. Why does this matter, well its likely to help you retain information, change your motivation, potentially aid in decision making as well as keep anxiety in check far more. Those clients I see with higher anxiety levels are generally ones with more gut issues, or long term gut issues, they tend to become easily stressed, so working on the gut is always my priority. Stress tends to suppress beneficial bacteria, studies show this, one study was carried out on students around exam time which showed their beneficial bacteria dropped during that time, yes it probably is a good idea to consider adding probiotics into your children’s diets during exam times, if not before, and of course your’s too, to help you deal with their stress!!
The other thing is that stress increases inflammation in the gut and wider into the body, and keeping your stress and anxiety under wraps can be easier said than done, I know that, but if you want to keep inflammation low in your body then treating your gut as well as dealing with the stress may help to improve the overall situation, and pain you are feeling. Obviously what tends to also come with stress is a weight issue, and when we are stressed this is when it can get incredibly difficult to lose weight, yet one study has shown that obese people reduced their fat, by just drinking a probiotic drink each day!
Do you want to change your genes, well you can, lifestyle plays a significant role in gene expression, being told that genes control your future health is starting to be challenged by the cutting edge arena of epigenetics. Your genetic code isn’t as set as we are told it is, but can change constantly particularly with the health of the gut, so having a good gut lifestyle can make all the difference to your overall health, and future health.
Great ways to have a healthy gut:
- Eat your vegetables
- Fermented foods are fantastic, a bit of saurkraut with your salad, kefir yoghurt with your soup, natto all are less expensive ways of having more bacteria instead of taking a probiotic.
- Reduce your refined processed foods, particularly ones high in sugar
- Take out gluten grains to help transit time at first
Moving the bowels each day should be the norm by the way!