The Happy Belly: Why The Health Of Your Body AND Mind Depend On This Vital System
Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, once said that, “All disease begins in the gut.” We’re finding out, more and more, that this is true.
Do you have anxiety attacks? Your gut might be responsible.
Do you have eczema? Most likely, your gut is the culprit.
Do you have bloating, belly fat, brain fog, headaches, sugar cravings, an autoimmune disease, depression, constipation, ear infections, yeast infections, jock itch, dandruff, paranoia, a kid with ADHD?
The health of your gut is intimately involved with ALL of the above-noted conditions.
How can that be? How can our digestion be so crucial for our overall physical and mental health?
Eastern medicine has known about this phenomenon for over 5000 years. The practice of Ayurveda looks to clean up the gut in order to treat almost anything. In contrast, modern medicine is just now catching up to this crucial piece of the puzzle.
We now know that we have what is called “the gut-brain connection.” And, of course, this makes so much sense. We’ve all experienced “gut feelings” whereby we feel something in our gut before we can intellectualize the thought. We’ve all had the experience of meeting someone and feeling “butterflies” because of an attraction to that person. We’ve all had the feeling of something going horribly wrong and feeling sick in the belly.
Our guts seem to literally have a brain – an intelligence.
In 1921, scientists discovered a nerve that connects the gut to the brain. It’s called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is like a pipeline stemming from your skull, down to your chest and abdomen and branching out to several organs. In fact, the name vagus is Latin for “wandering.” This nerve connects brain to gut and gut to brain. About 90% of the communication between these two vital organs runs through this nerve.
In other words, our gut talks to our brain and our brain talks to our gut…ALL THE TIME.
To make matters even more interesting, the lining of our intestine houses our enteric nervous system (ENS), which works with your brain and independently of its own accord. What this means is that we now have an explanation as to why certain foods can cause huge fluctuations in mood and why something like anxiety can make us feel sick to our stomachs.
Of equal importance is that about 80% of our immune system sits in the gut. In a healthy gut, we digest and absorb the food that we eat and the nutrients are shuffled through to the liver and then effortlessly disseminated throughout our cells to nourish us. In a leaky gut, the food that we eat slips out into the bloodstream where its not supposed to be and puts our immune systems on high alert. Since these particles are not recognized due to being in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” the immune system wages an attack. It literally begins to attack the healthy tissues of the body and, low and behold, an autoimmune response is initiated.
This autoimmune response can have dire consequences for the body and brain.
Autoimmune diseases can include: Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes Mellitus type 1, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Psoriasis, Hashimoto’s, Graves Disease, Addisons, etc…
Since the gut is so crucial to our overall physical and neurological health, what can we do to ensure its health?
Lots! The digestive system, the gut, is a sensitive but highly responsive system. It will respond amazingly to the ‘right’ foods and substances. And this is where diet can make or break us.
Here is what creates balance:
• Eating REAL FOOD – not boxed or packaged food…real, WHOLE food
• Plant foods and their fiber – organic fruits and vegetables are crucial for a well-functioning gut
• Good fat – because there ARE good fats and there most certainly are harmful fats. Look for saturated sources of fat. Saturated fats (fats that come from pasture-raised animals, butter, coconut oil) are more stable and less prone to oxidation (rancidity)
• Take a fish oil daily
• Fermented foods or good quality probiotics
• Drink structured water – this is water with lemon or cucumbers or berries…the added elements creates a water that is better absorbed by the body
Here is what to avoid:
• High sugar diets are not a friend to the gut – sugar, in any form, can tip the balance of good to unhealthy bacteria in the gut. Sugar can create an overproduction of yeast and create a Candida problem within the gut and body
• Overuse of alcohol
• Harmful fats: which tend to be unsaturated and come from vegetable, nut and seed oils and are more unstable and prone to oxidation
• Processed, boxed, packaged foods – in fact, these are not foods at all. They are “food-like products” and we were not designed to eat them
• Gluten. Most people, when they give up gluten, give up a host of digestive woes along with it
When in doubt, just eat real food. If it grows on a tree, a vine or pops up from fertile soil, eat it. If it was made in a manufacturing facility, don’t.
Your gut, your health and your mind will thank you.
Until next time, wellness warriors….xo Ann
No Comments »