Listen To Your Gut; why gut health is so important
I have a Gut feeling about this
If you read any of my instagram captions or other blogs you'll realize I often say "I'm obsessed with certain things", "I love certain things" "one of my favorite things" etc. these words just come as a result of how passionate I am about my job and about health and fitness! However, in this blog I am going to discuss one of the topics I find the MOST interesting of all and why. This topic is...The Gut! Fact: Your gut has as many neurons as the brain of a dog? That's right...your gut is one smart puppy! It responds to emotions. Example; butterflies when you're nervous or excited, or stomach dropping when you're shocked or scared. It's one of the main areas responsible for fighting disease and infections aka keeps you feeling your best. It is also where we digest our food, and our food as we know, is the fuel that keeps us alive...so...you could say gut health is quite important! In this blog, we will dive deeper into roles of the gut, things you may not know about your guts, and also various ways to care for it.
The Gut, Our Second Brain
Have you ever taken the time to look at a picture of your gut? Really look at it? It even resembles a brain. Your brain houses the central nervous system, while your gut houses the enteric nervous system. Your brain and your gut are connected by the Vagus nerve, which allows them to be in constant contact and conversation with one another throughout the day, similarly, they also use the same variety of neurotransmitters to communicate. One of these neurotransmitters being Serotonin. Serotonin (in the brain) is known to many as the "The Happy Chemical". It acts on the hypothalamus and is responsible for keeping us at ease and feeling good throughout the day. In other words, it is in charge of our emotions.
Did you know that upwards of 94% of our serotonin is produced in our gut?! When I first found that out I was shook!! Then I was like hmm, come to think of it, whenever I'm feeling bloated, I'm not in a good mood, when I'm nauseous, I'm not in a good mood, when I'm having digestive issues, I'm not in a good mood. Similarly, when I'm anxious my stomach feels like it's in knots, when I'm angry my stomach feels like there's a pit in it. Thinking about these facts made me notice just how apparent the communication between my upper and lower brain is! We know that our emotions have an affect on our gut, but, I have since learned that our gut also has an effect on our emotions. The link between gut health and our mental well being is so strong, experts have even started practicing acupuncture on the guts of those with depression. As well as hyponosis on those with IBS in the hopes to reconnect proper communication between the gut and the brain. Your ability to have happy thoughts, resist anxiety, resist depression, and even the quality of our dreams are all heavily influenced by the gut!
Ways to improve gut health and vibrate higher
Your gut has so much life in it, I'm talking billions of healthy bacteria, firing neurons, crucial enzymes and more. So how do we keep it working at optimum levels? Here's some great ways to start!
1. Eat foods with or take Probiotics
100 thousand billion bacteria live in our intestinal tubes, this is 100X more bacteria in our gut, than cells in our entire body. Intestinal bacteria helps us determine what is and isn't acceptable in our body, which keeps our immune system functioning properly and keeping us healthy. Probiotics are supplements that contain live microorganisms which improve the microflora/good bacteria in our guts. They can be found in supplements, as well as in certain foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sourdough, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and more.
A study was done in Europe where scientists took brain scans of two different groups of women as they were showing these women various photos of people with very angry and threatening facial expressions. One group had been eating yogurt with probiotics the past few weeks, and the other had been eating yogurt without. In the brain scans of the women who had been eating probiotics, the stress centers showed up on the scan as extremely less active, proving that feeding the good bacteria in our guts with probiotics helps with our mental well being.
My favorite probiotic I have used thus far is by Kaya Biotics, you can find their instagram @kayabiotics. They are vegan and gluten free and have a variety of strains and over 12 billion CFU per capsule. Because probiotics are alive most probiotics are meant to be stored in your refrigerator, however the light from the refrigerator can kill them, but kaya probiotics places them in a UV resistant capsule and a super heavy duty blacked out container to avoid light getting to them!
2. Eat foods high in Prebiotics
Prebiotics are foods which feed the microflora, and are often found in foods high in fiber. Some foods high in probiotics are asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onion, bananas, and artichokes.
3. Stay away from actions that cause bloating
In most cases bloating is caused by what or how we eat.
Eating too much or too fast is one of the main causes of bloating, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize you're full, stick to smaller portions and slow it down! Drinking with straws, chewing gum, and drinking highly carbonated drinks are also known to cause bloating.
4. Stay away from foods that cause bloating
Certain foods that are hard for our gut to digest stay in our system for extra long periods of time and cause the bacteria in our gut to start releasing air which causes more bloating and discomfort. Foods like beans, Brussels sprouts, lentils, dairy, and artificial sweeteners (so yes many of the protein style bars, cookies, and snacks, sigh) are extremely hard on our digestive system.
5. Do some yoga!
Yoga is proven to work wonders on our digestive system, the twisting and turning movements are so fantastic for compressing and keeping the gut healthy and in motion. The movements which involve moving your heart below your hips are also great for your gut, because it helps turn your intestines and take them out of the constant stagnant position which they sit in most of the day.
6. Eat high fiber foods
Foods which are high in fiber and specifically very coarse when chewed, such as carrots, celery, apples, etc. are not fully broken down strictly by chewing them. So when they go through your intestinal walls they act sort of like an SOS pad scraping debris off the walls and taking it with them as they pass. This is so amazing for keeping your guts clean and preventing leaky gut.