For many years you have known: how much you eat will determine your weight. How many of you know the impact of your diet and of microorganisms in your gut on your brain function? What you eat will determine the function of your brain. This is called the gut-brain connection. We know the fact that the brain sends signals to the gut and vice versa. It is a two-way street.
Before we go further, I need to remind you of these basic facts: The two nervous systems in the human organism, the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system (located in the gastrointestinal tract), develop identical tissues during the fetal stage. These systems come from the same roots. Later in the fetus’ development, the tissues will go in different directions. One will become the central nervous system; the other will become the enteric nervous system. Now you know why your stomach feels upset when you are stressed or why the problem in your gut may lead to behavioral problems.
Did you know that you have neurons, cells that are specialized to conduct nerve impulses, not just in your brain, but in your gastrointestinal tract as well? What if neurons in your gut produce more neurotransmitter serotonin, than your brain? “Mood controlling serotonin in my gut? You must be kidding!” Not at all! Probiotics, (“good bacteria”), along with other microorganisms, are able to change how your brain works. The microbes in the gut play much more of a role in mental health than previously thought possible.
Do not mix up these two terms:
Probiotics – beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and
Prebiotics – foods that contain nutrients that support the growth and activity of friendly bacteria.
The impact of the gut’s microorganisms is not only on brain function, but on the immune system, gene expression, obesity and diabetes. Gut bacteria are very sensitive to the diet. If you eat too much sugar, refined grains, processed foods or corn syrup, you will destroy healthy bacteria in your gut. On top of bad choices of food, you can destroy gut bacteria with unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans and animals (meat you eat), chlorinated water, antibacterial soap or agricultural chemicals. It looks like almost everything works against healthy gut bacteria!
What can you do to protect your gut’s good bacteria? The first thing to do is to pay attention to your diet. There is a direct connection between diet and your mental and physical health. Try to use a lot of fermented vegetables. They have many health benefits. Learn from the Internet how to prepare your own fermented vegetables. Or, you can drink kefir, which has plenty of active bacteria. If you do not consume the traditionally fermented foods, try high-quality probiotic supplements. They will provide similar, but not the same benefits, as fermented vegetables.
Approximately 80 percent of the immune system is located in your gut! This is the reason why your gut’s flora is an essential element of good health.