Gut Health & Your Second Brain

Gut Health Second Brain

Gut Health – Second Brain

Gut Health and the Second Brain.  Have you heard about this?  Sounds like something from a science fiction movie!

The truth is, there has been some discussion recently about the health of the gut.  According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one of

the most well-respected hospitals and medical schools in the United States says there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of

your digestive system is what is known as your second brain or the brain in your gut and this new knowledge is changing the way researcher’s look at the connection between mood, digestion, our thoughts, and overall health in general.  Turns out that gut health and your second brain play an important role in your overall health: mind, body, and emotions.

Does Disease Always Begin in the Gut?

The answer is, no…not necessarily.  Not all the diseases originate in the gut. For example, it doesn’t apply to genetic or inherited diseases. However, there is evidence that for chronic metabolic disease, it may very well be the case that it began in the gut.

Understand What the Second Brain is and Why it Matters
This “brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” (ENS) and is comprised of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your esophagus to your rectum. The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing to releasing the enzymes that help break food down, to the control of blood flow, which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) brain with significant results.  Studies have shown that optimizing gut health may lead to improvements with the following issues:

  • Immune function – 80% of the immune system is located in the gut
  • Brain function
  • Emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, aggravation, etc.
  • Weight-loss resistance
  • Toxin levels in the body
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Allergy issues
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
How Is This Possible?
The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has shown that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to
the central nervous system, which may affect mood. When you consider that between 30%-40% of the population has some sort of bowel issue and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety it’s not difficult to understand how there may be a connection.
Our human body is home to a variety of bacterial species, good and bad. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and it is estimated that 100 trillion microorganisms reside in the bowel.
The key is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut – the fancy name for the good microorganisms is probiotics.
Probiotics can be helpful in that they play a role in the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients; break down medications, regulate some of the bad bacterial species that lead to infection or disease.

A Word about Probiotics

There are a few ways to get probiotics, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement using a high-quality formula targeted for your unique needs. For people with Hashimoto’s, I recommend the following and suggest rotating probiotic strains.  Don’t take the same probiotic long-term as this may result in dysbiosis:
There are also certain foods that are high in probiotics, such as:
• Buttermilk
• Kefir
• Miso
• Sauerkraut
• Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
• Kombucha
Getting more probiotics into your system is a good way to improve the ecology of the gut but be mindful that you get what you pay for in the probiotic industry.  Use only science-based formulas produced by companies who disclose their standardization practices and quality control standards.  My favorite high quality and trusted brands I am 100% confident to recommend to the public include Designs for Health, Sigma Tau International, Thorne Research, Master Supplements, and Pure Encapsulations.  You will not find these brands sitting on a grocery or drugstore shelf.

Additional Tips

Stress Less and Laugh More
Stress, especially long-term stress not only affects our gut bacteria and intestines in general but it also affects the productions of hormones and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain. When it is long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies.

Laughter helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that produce the good overtake the bad. There was even a study conducted where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a
disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for
one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants.

Don’t be Afraid of Dirt

This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for you because it gets you outside, gives you exercise, and putting your
hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground. In a more figurative way, stop killing all the bacteria. They have recently stopped putting anti-bacterial agents in things because humans are killing all the bacteria, the good and the bad. And what is happening? The bad bacteria are getting stronger and the good bacteria are dying.
Studies have shown that kids who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a healthier immune system. Dogs are
associated with a type of house dust that actually exposes us to important strains of bacteria, L. johnsonii is one, which is essential
within the digestive tract.
Believe it or not, dogs also have a positive probiotic-like benefit for humans by helping us to develop healthy bacteria that boost your immune system which may prevent sickness, and possibly reducing allergies. Dogs also help, or in some cases force us to exercise more which helps to relieve stress.  Who doesn’t love a walk with their fur baby anyway?

It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining optimal gut health. There are many ways that you can do this,
including exercise, and learning to listen to your body; however, some of the easiest changes you can make are to:
  • Take a high-quality probiotic and rotate strains.
  • Consume probiotic-rich foods in moderation (e.g. a fork-sized serving of sauerkraut is sufficient)
  • Laugh more often
  • Regularly practice compensatory strategies to help your body (and gut) manage the effects of daily stress better.  My favorite activities are deep-breathing, pilates, meditation, prayer, visualization (visualize yourself “healthy,” taking a walk, walking barefoot in the grass, and bird-watching whenever Hummingbirds are around.  Basically, take time to “smell the roses,” as the old adage goes.
  • Don’t over sanitize or try and kill all bacteria (I know, this is a tough one albeit necessary!))


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