Since the last couple of blogs that I have written have all been about healing, gut health and what excellent foods kefir and bone broth both are at healing the digestive system.
I thought it would be appropriate to write about how the gut is connected to the brain and that whatever we eat or put into our bodies can also have an effect on the brain.
Eons ago Hippocrates said that “all diseases begin in the gut” and now we are discovering that there might have been some truth in what he said.
We have known for quite some time that the gut is connected to the brain, but now ongoing studies are finding that there is a connection between the bacteria in the gut and our brain behavior.
You have got about 100 trillion bacteria living within you and it is now becoming abundantly clear that these tiny little microorganisms play a major role in our physical and mental wellbeing.
The two-way street
We have two nervous systems in our bodies namely the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Enteric Nervous System (ENT).
The Central Nervous System is made up of the brain and spinal cord whereas the Enteric Nervous System is embedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal system.
These two systems are made from the same tissue and primarily connected via the vagus nerve which is the longest of the 12 cranial nerves in the body and extends all the way from the brain stem to the abdomen.
It has been known for decades that the brain can send signals to the gut via this nerve, but recent studies have also found that signals travel in the opposite direction resulting in two-way communication.
Your gut actually sends way more signals to your brain than your brain sends to the gut and that is why people who experience anxiety or depression often first start out with digestive issues.
Like our brains, we also have neurons in our gut which account for neurotransmitters like serotonin. We also produce serotonin in the brain, but it is estimated that 90% of it is made up in the gut.
Serotonin is responsible for things like mood, depression, social behavior, memory and has even been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
This could be the reason that when we take antidepressants or anxiety medication which only control serotonin levels in the brain that they are not as effective as the dietary changes we can make.
Gut Flora may affect your brain function
Scientists have found that the bacteria in the gut could have roles to play in conditions like autism, anxiety, depression and also other disorders.
Research has mainly been done on autism where it was noted that the majority of people with this disorder have digestive issues which then led to the investigation of gut bacteria and autistic behavior.
When comparing the bacteria from autistic individuals to their healthy counterparts it was found that those with autism were missing several types of gut flora.
Most notably were the lower levels of bifidobacterium and lactobacilli which are probiotic bacteria strains that are typically found in fermented foods.
These probiotic bacteria are important in raising the serotonin levels in the gut and at helping to normalize anxiety-like effects.
Another beneficial bacterium is Bacteroides fragilis which are only found in small quantities in people with autism.
Elaine Y. Hsiao, a microbiologist from Caltech conducted a study where pregnant mice were inoculated with a virus that induced autism-like symptoms.
The result was that the offspring were born with an altered gut bacteria and displayed the same autistic challenges as their parents.
When these mice were fed with the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis certain of their symptoms subsided and their sociability skills improved.
Anxiety & Depression
Anxiety and depression have been linked to the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestinal tract.
An imbalance of bacteria can cause inflammation in the gut which has been associated with the onset of depression and is often accompanied by irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive issues like leaky gut.
With leaky gut, toxins and other unwanted bacteria can enter into the blood stream causing autoimmune responses and further inflammation which can then also result in Anxiety.
So by balancing and optimizing your gut bacteria with probiotic fermented foods you are lessening your chances of both anxiety and depression.
It is wrong to assume that everybody with celiac disease will get 100% better on a gluten-free diet alone. Some do, but many don’t.
Research shows that there are some imbalances in gut bacteria in people with celiac disease and that the types of bacteria that they do have could display different symptoms.
This could explain why some people experience digestive issues while others display joint pain or neurological symptoms. – The types of gut bacteria could be playing a role here.
Although celiac disease, gluten ataxia, candida and leaky gut syndrome are separate conditions they all have links to imbalances in gut microbes.
So if we can optimize our gut flora by ingesting high-quality probiotics mainly from the foods we eat and also incorporate a gluten and yeast free diet then, in my opinion, we are on the right track.
Ferments I use to enhance my gut flora
One of the most effective ways to balance and optimize our gut flora is through fermented foods.
In order for us to get the most out of the different types and strains of probiotic bacteria found in various fermented foods, we have to look at different sources.
I found that I reacted negatively to kombucha and water kefir because of the sugar you have to add to the water for the probiotics to feed on.
Maybe I didn’t ferment this for long enough, but I have tried this twice now and I am not prepared to give it another go. So the ferments that I do are milk kefir, sourdough rye bread and different types of vegetables.
I know that we gluten intolerant people are not supposed to have rye, but I find that the fermentation process partially digests the rye so that I can tolerate it without any issues. – tastes lovely with bone broth.
I like to think most of my health benefits come from milk kefir maybe because this was the first ferment that I researched and made.
I have built up to drinking about a liter per day and once every 6 months will do a kefir cleanse. – a cup of kefir a day keeps the doctor away.
Fermented vegetables are something I make not only for their taste but because of the beneficial lactic acid bacteria they produce.
Sauerkraut is one of the more common ones I do because of the simplicity, but basically, any vegetable can be fermented. I sometimes mix vegetables to get different colors and make the ferments more interesting.
In my opinion, optimizing good gut bacteria and healing the lining of our digestive tracts are the fundamental requirements in treating any condition or autoimmune disease.
In saying that I think fermented foods and bone broth are the most beneficial foods for this purpose.
Bone broth will provide you with the gelatine among other nutrients that are needed to help heal and seal leaky gut.
Fermented foods help in the way of providing good probiotics which optimize the gut flora and boost our immune systems.
I will be writing about other ferments in future blogs as I feel there is a lot more probiotic diversity that we can get from these foods.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it informative.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to post your comments below