Our brain and gut are closely interconnected in terms of our senses, biological functions, emotions, and moods. Every piece of food we consume and every stressful thought we have affects our brain directly, in both gut and head. Both “brains” need to be nourished if we wish to perform well, maintain mental energy, and stay emotionally balanced.
This importance of this connection is becoming more and more acknowledged, so here our the top 5 facts to get you up to date with everything you need to know about the gut-brain connection...
Top 5 facts about the gut-brain connection
1. Synthesis of vitamins and minerals. The microbes in our gut (known as the microbiata) are like busy construction workers on a work site. They help to break down foods into bioavailable vitamins such as the vitamin B complex, which nourishes the nerves in the brain.
2. Childhood development. A diverse microbial blueprint has an enormous effect on babies’ development, learning capacity, ability to fight childhood infections, and food sensitivities. The unique gut flora is established initially by vaginal delivery, breastfeeding, and parental contact. If a C-section is required, or breastfeeding is not possible, infant probiotics can be worth considering.
3. Detoxification. Getting rid of toxins is a vital part of keeping the brain well and alert at any age. Microbes in the gut help our body to metabolize toxins so that they can be eliminated, stopping them from building up inside our body and poisoning our brain.
4. “The Defenders.” Microbes in our gut are gatekeepers; they can fend off harmful pathogens such as the parasites that can enter your body when you eat your favorite sushi. Think of the microbes as your internal defense system (in conjunction with hydrochloric acid in your stomach).
5. “The Forgotten Organ.” A diverse community of microbes in the gut—the microbiome or “the forgotten organ”—helps to modulate stress and increases the production of serotonin for mood and melatonin for sleep. Lack of diversity can lead to food cravings, weight gain, and depression. (In studies, autistic children have been shown to have less diverse gut bacteria than the general group.) In conventional medicine, certain antidepressant medications are prescribed for patients with IBS, since psychological stress can alter the perception of pain and the muscle activity in the gut associated with IBS. This shows how our emotions and psychological outlook are closely connected with the nerves in our gut via the gut–brain axis. This interconnection was explored as early as the 1920s by Dr. Élie Metchnikoff, who said that he encountered no cases of psychiatric illness where digestive function was not compromised.
This extract is from the Nourish Your Brain Cookbook by Rika K. Keck.