Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach or hangry when you went too long without eating? We often feel emotions in our gut while poor gut health and chronic intestinal problems influence our mood and cognitive functioning. This is because of the gut-brain connection, one of the primary indicators of overall health. Today, we wanted to cover why this connection exists and the easy steps you can take to improve both your brain and gut health.
What is gut-brain health?
First off, what exactly is gut-brain health? It’s the idea that your gut health directly impacts your brain health and vice versa. The biochemistry between the brain and the guts means they often communicate with each other, including sending messages back and forth about your mood, immunity, and other indicators of health. That’s why when you feel stressed, you often feel it in the pit of your stomach and when you eat too much unhealthy food, it affects your overall mood and energy levels.
Why does this connection exist?
The connection is due to both the anatomy and biochemistry of your body. Physically, the brain and gut are connected by a variety of ways including the Vagus nerve and the enteric nervous system, making it easy for messages to travel back and forth between the two. In fact, the gut has also been called the second brain. On a biochemical level, they have similar neurotransmitters which constantly send signals back and forth. The microbiome is also intricately involved in these communications.
The role of nutrition
One of the best ways to ensure the brain-gut connection is working in your favor is to pay attention to nutrition–what you eat impacts both. Two important nutritional groups for your gut health are probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics are microorganisms that restore gut flora. Generally, you’ll want to take a probiotic supplement like Visbiome High Potency Probiotic Capsules in order to get enough probiotics. You can also get probiotics from yogurt, kefnir, miso, and other foods.
Prebiotics refer to plant fibers that fertilize healthy bacteria in the gut so it can become stronger and multiply faster. Similar to a probiotic, you can take a daily supplement, such as BiotaGen Prebiotics, to get enough prebiotics. The best option however is to eat foods high in fiber & prebiotics. Foods with prebiotics include but are not limited to, asparagus, bananas, garlic, peas, and eggplant. End of the day, THINK PLANTS!
Along with probiotics and prebiotic supplements, there are a couple of other nutritional groups to include in your diet:
- Fermented foods: yoga, cheese, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods help healthy gut bacteria flourish.
- Foods high in fiber: the rumors are true–a high fiber diet is good for your gut. Try to include seeds, whole grains, nuts, and other whole foods which help produce good gut bacteria.
- Polyphenol-rich foods: olive oil, green tea, and coffee are three foods high in polyphenol, a plant fiber that improves gut health and cognition.
- Amino acids: foods that are high in amino acids strengthen good gut bacteria. These can include quinoa, eggs, and fish. These foods are often high in essential fatty acids too, which helps improve brain health.
It’s not a question of whether to improve brain or gut health, but how to improve both. The two are interlinked and should be treated together.