Our Guts Are Considered Our 2nd Brains
Because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence our gut microbes can have, it's no wonder what we eat feeds not only our bodies but can directly affect our brains.
I find all this amazing, although not too surprising. And, we are going to learn all about the gut-brain connection in this week's blog post, as well as finish off with a great overnight oats recipe!
What Is The "Gut-Brain Connection?"
- The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
- The enteric nervous system, AKA the second brain, that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
- The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
- The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
- The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.
This is all very complex, but equally awe-inspiring, if you ask me. Keep reading to learn about the amazing ways in which our guts and our brains are connected...
The Vagus Nerve
After reading this blog post so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of this transmission is…
It is not from our brains to our guts, which is what we used to think, but from our guts up to our brains! Who knew!
The Enteric Nervous System
I knew you would!
This is why the gut is referred to as the second brain. If you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion, which includes things like digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, and the flow of food, probably requires a lot of intelligence to organize, right?
Guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? Using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.
In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our moods are made in the gut! That's right, a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!
The Gut's Immune System
And you know that immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?
Well, if these cells are activated by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.
However, more and more evidence is showing that changes in our gut microbiota can impact our moods, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.
Foods To Eat For Optimal Brain Health
One thing is becoming clear, however. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!
So, how do we feed our brains?
Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone. It is also very important to lower intake of sugar and processed carbs as the unhealthy microbes love sugar and continue to multiply in a high sugar environment.
However, two things that we can try and eat more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber, found in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds, help to feed our awesome gut microbes. Omega-3 fats, found in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp, are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.
And While We're At It...
First off, probiotic rich foods that are naturally fermented such as sauerkraut, kombucha and unsweetened yogurt are packed with many different strains of good bacteria to help balance the microbiota.
Other good for your brain foods include vegetables like kale and sweet potatoes, berries, nuts, seeds, fish, and even cacao! They are full of prebiotic fiber, healthy fats and really pack a punch towards a healthier, happier body!
Recipe: Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats
- 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup steel cut or rolled oats (gluten-free)
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 banana, sliced
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.
- Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
- Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.
- Serve & enjoy!
Pro Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.
Want To Improve Your Gut-Brain Health?
Did this blog post inspire you to work towards a healthier brain by nourishing your body? Are you wondering what kinds of food you should be eating to optimize your gut-brain connection, as well as your overall health? If so, I am more than happy to help you do just that.
I'd love for you to book a free health coaching call. I want to find out what you are struggling with and give you my best tips to start you on a journey toward a lean and healthy body for life.
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