Healthy gut, healthy brain
You may have heard expressions like “the gut is the second brain” or “the gut is the hidden brain”. But what does it all mean? And how does this affect your life?
Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss. It is hard to grasp, quantify, explain and above all treat. It is much easier to repair a broken bone than lifting the spirit of a depressed person. I have suffered from depression, brain fog and chronic fatigue for many years, so I know what I am talking about!
Unfortunately, the traditional medical approach to mental health is still biased by the conventional medicine which treats symptoms with drugs and surgery procedures. This approach can be tracked back to Rene Descartes, whose philosophy separated mind and body. This led to a specialised medicine where different branches focus on different organs, failing to understand the interaction and dynamic relationship between them.
Thankfully in recent years, medicine is moving towards a more holistic approach, which sees the body/mind as one system and takes into consideration the complex interaction of the whole organism as one entity.
An important example of this, is the relationship between the gut and the brain. Progressive neuroscientists have started talking about the enteric nervous system and describe the gut as the second brain. Thanks to the modern technological advances, it has been possible to study the close connections between these two fascinating organs. This is another example of how Western science comes to understand what in the East has been known for thousands of years.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine, focuses predominantly on gut health, as the foundation for overall well-being. Intrigued by this concept, I went to India over a 3-year cycle of treatments. As a result, my mental and physical health have dramatically improved.
Here are some practical tips from experts - tested in my own personal experience - to achieve optimal gut health:
Cut sugar (or even better eliminate it completely): sugar feeds bad bacteria and promotes yeast and candida overgrowth, all of which damage your gut
Make food diversity a priority, especially eat different veggies every day
Stay away from grains: grains contain gut irritating lectin, and several grains also contain gluten and other hard to digest proteins
Avoid antibiotics, which wipe out your whole gut flora (good and bad bacteria)
Eat healthy fats which support brain cells (avocado, olive and coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee etc.)
Consider taking some good quality probiotics to support your gut
For me, changing diet has been the most powerful and effective lifestyle intervention to improve health. Results have been immediately evident and in fact, experts say that what we eat changes the gut bacteria within days.
Apparently 90% of serotonin produced in the body is found in the gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating appetite, mood, sleep, and relaxation. So if you feel down, instead of taking medication, look at your plate. Stock up your fridge with gut/brain friendly nutrients.
A healthy gut is your best strategy for a healthy brain. Your gut bacteria are the most effective drug to generate “feel good” mood - smart drug for a healthy brain!