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Digestive Health and the Links to a Healthy Brain and Body

Articles and research on the effects of a healthy digestive system seem to be crossing my path a lot these days. They are causing me to take a closer look and the findings are astounding. I hope you can glean from this a deeper appreciation for a healthy digestive system and that it will encourage you to take stock of your own health.

In a medical presentation Dr. Richard Schulze said, “We won, America won! Our lack of attention on good elimination and digestive health and our increased consumption of junk food, has awarded Americans with the highest level of digestive disorders, bowel disease and colon cancer in the world. We won!” In obvious sarcasm, he was stating where we stand today, statistically, in regard to digestive health.

Scientists who have written an article on intestinal microbiota have noted the global rise in mental health and depression. They discuss the research being done on the link between the functional integrity of the gastrointestinal tract (namely the balance of intestinal bacteria~ the good and the bad) and mental health.

Dr. Greenblatt, a psychiatrist in the Boston area, is researching the connection between the gut and the brain. “Each year, I get more and more impressed at how important the GI tract is for healthy mood and the controlling of behaviour” Greenblatt said. Dr. Greenblatt found that more than half of psychiatric complaints were associated with problems in the gut. Experts like Dr. Greenblatt are convinced that tweaking these bacteria can have a profound effect on behavioural and psychological changes.

We still have so much to understand about how our digestive system affects our health. For instance, scientist are unsure exactly which microbial species are part of a healthy microbiome. However, they do know that healthy gut bacteria is involved in a boosted immune system and brain chemistry. What we do understand so far is that a healthy gastrointestinal tract may have far reaching effects on our health.

So, what can we do to improve the health of our digestive system?

There are such vast amounts of information on this subject, that it would be impossible to cover in a blog post. However, some of the most basic elements to fostering a healthy gut can be covered here.

The best thing you can do for your digestive health is begin to replace all processed and refined ‘foods’ that are currently a part of your diet. I use the term foods lightly as they are rarely foods at all, and usually life-robbing, rather than life-giving.

This would lead you to look at anything packaged and check the ingredients. Are they natural, and unprocessed. Be careful as some ‘natural foods’ are processed so much so, that they can become harmful, such as agave syrup. Learn about and incorporate as many whole natural foods as you can.

Next, it is imperative if you are seeking an healthy digestive system, to leave behind sugar and processed carbohydrates, in all but natural forms (fruit, honey, maple syrup are ok in moderation). Sugar is known to cause inflammation, which in turn lessens our ability to digest and absorb important nutrients. Undigested foods in the intestines can cause unfavourable bacteria to flourish and further inflammation to occur, this is called autointoxication. You can see the vicious cycle that can harm your digestive system, and as I’ve mentioned your entire body (immune system, energy etc.)

So once you have replaced the harmful ‘foods’ and refined products, with whole foods, such as a colourfully diverse group of veggies and fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins and fats; the next thing you can look at is water. The key to a healthy body is replenishing the water that is so vital to your health. I recommend at least 8-9 cups per day. Lastly, adding prebiotic foods that feed healthy gut microbes, such as artichoke, asparagus, leeks and garlic, and fiber that is found naturally in foods. Probiotics, also increase healthy gut flora. These include fermented whole foods like kefir, yogurt (unsweetened, natural and organic), miso, and sauerkraut (made without vinegar).

Whether you are looking to increase you immunity, your resistance to disease, or just your overall energy and well-being, it all begins with the healthy state of your digestive system.

For more information, or to book a health consultation with a registered nutritionist, please visit our website.

I encourage you to..

Live Well Nourished

Sources:

Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part I – autointoxication revisited by Alison C Bested, Alan C Loganand Eva M Selhub BIOmed

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds by Rob Stein

The right combination of stomach microbes could be crucial for a healthy mind By Carrie Arnold

***of the human body: around 90 percent of our cells are actually bacterial, and bacterial genes outnumber human genes by a factor of 99 to 1.