Gut-Brain connection

Another in a series of wellbeing panels where Harry and Sally discuss a topical Wellbeing issue – the Gut-Brain connection. Today we look into the GUT and how it interacts with our mind and body. This is an area that deserves more airplay and focus. Have a listen, like us and share. Would love to hear your comments.

Do you realise that your digestion can shape your life? The Gut-Brain connection supports your ability to access your IQ, to think clearly and to sustain a good mood. The GI tract is the largest system in the body.  You cannot function at, or even near your best, if your digestion is struggling to process what you eat.

The Gut-Brain connection is perhaps the most important connection in the body. The gut is our second brain and you are what you eat and can absorb

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut”

As this quote from the father of modern medicine suggests, many chronic diseases including asthma, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, diabetes, obesity, liver disease do begin in the gut. [1] Almost 70% of your immune system resides in the gut.

An imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria can be caused by many factors including:

  • Antibiotics in early childhood;
  • Poor diet;
  • Regular use of  NSAID’s, anti-depressants or antacids;
  • Chronic Stress, or
  • Exposure to pesticides, weedkillers, BPA, GMOs;

The gut is your second brain

The enteric nervous system (ENS) controls digestion via some 100 million nerve cells lining your gut. The signals from your ENS to the central nervous system influence your mood and are now thought to be responsible for anxiety and depression. [2] So it is sensible to listen to your gut, if something feels bad or makes you feel uneasy, then your ENS is sending you useful information. This is another reason why it is important to listen to your intuition and have the courage to follow your inner whisper.

The connection between gut bacteria and mood

Those with type two diabetes or obesity have higher rates of depression and anxiety than normal. One question exercising the minds of researchers is whether this could be causation or merely correlation.

A recent study in the Journal of Molecular Biology has found a link between a high-fat diet and mood. Those on a high-fat diet were more depressed and anxious than those on a normal diet. And by altering the gut bacteria balance, the researchers were able to normalise the mood of those on a high-fat diet. This research suggests that the balance of our gut bacteria influences mood and influences our well being. [3]

Home-made bread

Bread made at home is quite delicious and in fact, we have always made our own bread. In the early days, we laboriously kneaded it by hand and then cooked it in the oven. The process is now much easier with a breadmaker.  There are now a variety of bread mixes available in supermarkets for use in breadmakers. We bought a large grain mill when the kids were young and stone-grind organic flour because it is healthier and much tastier.  So if you would like the best tasting homemade bread, think about sourcing organic wheat and stone-grinding your very own flour with a compact grinder.

Good days and bad days

Do you know anyone with a persistent pattern of good and bad days? And have you ever thought that this might be connected to the gut-brain connection and what they have eaten in the previous 36 hours? A regular pattern of childish melt-downs can reflect a problem digesting a diary or wheat product, or an additive in a processed food. These behaviour swings can reflect partly digested proteins breaching the gut wall, entering the bloodstream and ending up in the brain via a process called “leaky gut.” This is a pernicious condition which saps performance, mood and happiness. You can track the connection by becoming a food detective and keeping food diary.

My top five tips to nurture your gut-brain connection

  1. Read the labels on the foods and skincare products you use to avoid toxic ingredients;
  2. Minimise consumption of processed foods, added sugar and carbonated drinks;
  3. Serve whole-food rainbow meals to provide a fill range of the nutrients
  4. Empower your children to make good food choices
  5. Hydrate with good quality filtered water – urine colour is an easy way to check if you are drinking enough
  6. Target your organic spend by using EWG’s shopper’s guide to minimise pesticides in your food, Clean fifteen dirty dozen

If you would like to take the next step with Harry Armytage, complete the listening scorecard here

To find out more about what Sally Estlin does, head here

[1] Willam Cole

[2] John Hopkins Medicine

[3] Joslin Diabetes Center

Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash