Our gut contains trillions of microscopic bacteria that facilitate the gut-brain connection. There’s constant communication between both: the gut sending signal after signal through a complex network, and the brain processing the information for use throughout the body. Healthy adults carry up to five pounds of bacteria in their digestive tracts alone. Without them, both our brains and bodies would suffer immensely. Good bacteria are critical in the maintenance of good health. Here are some fascinating facts about gut bacteria:
• The “Second Brain.” The gut bacteria talk to the brain through the immune system or the enteric nervous system. The ENS is a mesh-like network wrapped in and around your intestinal tract. There are more neurons surrounding your gut than in the spinal cord of the central nervous system (CNS). Those “voices” or “gut feelings” you think are coming from your brain may be the result of your gut bacteria coming to a consensus and delivering it via neurotransmitter secretions directly to your brain!
• Happy Birthday! The very first influx of gut bacteria comes from the birth canal for babies born vaginally. Breast milk is also an important source of healthy bacteria and provides crucial antibodies.
• A One, Two Punch. Gut bacteria are our first line of defense against invading germs. They produce antimicrobials that kill pathogens and increase immunity. An imbalance can lower immunity, lead to allergies, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, certain cancers, and gut disease.
• Beefy Bones. Improved bone health occurs when prebiotics ferment and produce short-chain fatty acids. This increases good bacteria, which increases crucial bone-building minerals, and stabilizes intestinal flora to encourage bone growth, renewal, and metabolism.
• Opposites Do NOT Attract. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in seeds, grains, legumes, nuts, and many other foods. It prevents the utilization of various vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Gut flora can turn phytic acid into inositol (a B vitamin) that releases the nutrients, making them once again available to the body.
• Waging War Against Invaders. Bacteria take up physical space on the gut lining. They fill holes and stand together, resolute against infringing germs seeking residence. Sheer brute force is the most primary immune function of our gut bacteria.
• They Are Anti-Inflammatory. Gut flora provides a blockade against damaging bacteria. Gluten, dairy, grains, sugar, medications like antibiotics, and stress lead to inflammation, which leads to a leaky gut that allows toxins to seep into the bloodstream and provoke even more inflammation.
• We Are Outnumbered. The microbes in our bodies outnumber our own cells 10 to one and outnumber us in genes, too. The Human Microbiome Project has identified about 8 million microbial genes, compared with the roughly 20,000 genes uncovered by the Human Genome Project.
• They’re Changeable. Unlike genes, gut bacteria are changeable. We can alter them with diet and scientifically-based probiotics to help ease a range of symptoms.
• Feel Better. People with depression, anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and even autism tend to also have gastrointestinal issues. Gut bacteria can manufacture neurotransmitters which can help quiet the disturbances and mediate the disorders.
Healing your gut can be challenging and involves the combination of dietary shifts, pointed supplements, and even some lifestyle changes in certain cases. Contact me to help you begin to heal YOUR gut-brain connection.