The gut brain connection: how gut health affects your brain

What if I told you that you can produce a personalized gourmet French cheese with the help of the bacteria between your toes? If your face just jumped a few inches away from your screen with a disgusted face, I’m not surprised. It’s not the most appetizing thought but it’s physically possible to create a custom made cheese with your toe bacteria. Why on earth am I bringing up a topic like this you might wonder? It’s not to encourage you to start your own cheese production (please, please , PLEASE don’t…) but it’s to bring up the topic of bacteria.

Bacteria. The poor guys who’ve got the bad reputation stamp. The guys we drown down in hand sanitizers and excessive hand washes. We associate bacteria with sickness so it’s pretty amazing that bacteria also happens to be one of the healthiest things on this planet, if not the healthiest – the right kind, of course.

The first organisms that conquered this earth were a bunch of bacteria. You, me and everything alive did once develop from these small indestructible things. Naturally they should play a major role in our well being.

We call these bacteria microbes, or our microbiome.  The microbiome is basically a selection of different bacteria and fungi spread all over our body. We can find them on our skin, in our mouth, in our gut, and in our butt. I had to bring up the butt because I’m that mature. Our gut, specifically the large intestine, is packed with a million of bacteria that play the largest part in our health – believe it or not. Gut feeling? Yeah man, that’s a real thing! They control everything from our mental health to our metabolism, longevity, aging and immune system.  Pretty much everything that’s responsible for our life. Well, everything that goes on internally. You can’t blame your microbes for a dying iPhone or getting stuck in a snow storm. I mean, technically you could blame them for the dying iPhone since you’re the one responsible for that outcome. But the weather, that’s  out of your and your microbes control. Unless you’re God, or the US government. To get back to the point, we need to take care of our gut and our gut bacteria. A small stomach ache and occasional bloating aren’t small things to ignore. As our food is turning into processed chemicals, stripped down on all kinds of natuarl bacteria we can see how our diseases are skyrocketing throughout the world. It’s time to listen to our gut and feed it the right nutrition.

So how does it work? How does these tiny things carry such great responsibility over our health and well being?

The microbiome is similar to fingerprints. We all have a unique set of bacteria which respond differently to different food and environment. There are certain things that are destructive for all kinds of microbiome, as well as there are things that are universally amazing for our gut. The food we eat goes through our gut to digest before the nutrient later flows out in our body. Microbe friendly food will digest easily and enhance the bodies nutrient absorption while toxic foods will have the opposite effect.

Make your microbes happy

Fiber– fiber are the microbes best friends. They share a bond that’s stronger than the one and only Bond, James Bond. Fiber can be found in anything plant. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains. Snack up on these foods daily! Plant based foods are amazing for our microbial environment in the sense that they promote the growth of healthy bacteria. We want as many of these troopers as possible.

Fermented foods– Kimchi has slowly become the new cool kid on the block, and with good reason! Fermented foods like kimchi, sour kraut and kombucha are the God and Heavenly Father to our microbes. Make it a habit to have a side of fermented foods to at least one of your meals, preferably every meal. It’s also worth to mention that you shouldn’t heat up your fermented food since it can kill the healthy bacteria. You should instead finish off your warm meals with some fermented toppings, or have it on the side. If you’re not a fan of the fermentation hype you can always enjoy a bowl of yogurt. There are plenty of vegan, non dairy alternatives to yogurt like soygurt. Just make sure they contain the healthy bacteria culture, and that they don’t contain added sugars and processed bullshit. The fermentation process (just like the one that takes place when making French cheese) are basically the birth of healthy bacteria. Over time they thrive in the humid fermented environment. Just like mushrooms and fungi.

Healthy fats – High fat diets have got the reputation of being the terminator for our gut bacteria, meaning destructible af. These experiments are solely based on processed fats such as vegetable oils like sunflower, soybean oil, palm oil, and highly processed animal based fats. Obviously these fats are not good for us, and its causing a mislead in the fat – gut health debate. Fats are very good for our microbiome when they are from the right sources. Natural fats found in seeds, nuts, avocado and coconut oil are great for our gut. Not only does these foods contain a lot of healthy fats but they’re also jam packed with fiber – another really good friend to our microbiome.

Exercise– moving your body is good for us in general, so of course our microbes like it when we get our sweat on. Exercise increase the production of short chain fatty acids which promote a healthy gut. Moderate exercise is the best, with a lifestyle that you can keep up with since the effect wears off when we stop exercising. When we get our sweat on we activate the autonomic nervous system which regulates secretion of fluids and mucus to promote the short chain fatty acids.

Fasting– Don’t get scared now, I’m not going to make you fast for days. But to let our stomach rest for 12 hours between meals can be very beneficial for our gut bacteria. While sleeping you’re already fasting for around 8 hours. Try to keep a 12 hour window between dinner and breakfast a few days a week. If you’re literally starving, of course you should eat! Just make sure to feed your body fiber, vitamins and preferably something fermented the first thing in the morning. And by all means make sure to get the amount of calories and food you need! If fasting makes you eat less, and it effects you in a negative way I’m not recommending you to do this. I’m only about healthy encouragement!

Sleep – of course sleep is important. It’s the time when we get to recharge our bodies, and also our microbes. When our gutbacteria is out of balance we also find it harder to sleep, which creates the bad cycle of light and disturbed sleep. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night, and more importantly, to rise around the same time. The more your body works on autopilot the easier it is for the microbes to work efficiently. Irregular sleeping patterns often mess with our hunger feelings and the times we eat, forcing our microbes to adjust to new environments, which can cause bloating and poor digestion.

Are you harming your microbes?

Stress – stress can affect even the best of us. The feeling of your whole system shutting down is a product of unhealthy microbes. Stressful times makes our gut bacteria stressed, affecting our brain and then you. Bam! When we experience chaos we start doing everything stressful. We eat while feeling stressed, we exercise , we sleep stressfully. Str as is the bodies natural response to danger. In ththe state of danger our digestive slows down to have energy for more necessary actions to survive. Take your time to destress. Yoga, meditate, take a walk, watch your favorite Netflix show, spend time with loved ones. Everyone has got their own thing to calm the fudge down. I know it can be easier said than done, but your health will benefit from it in the long run. Taking time for yourself to feel at peace is as important as being “busy” all the time.

Processed food – Chemicals, fast food and oil sogged “food” is obviously not good, and for our microbes this is a killer. Not the good kind of sexy killer, we’re talking killer, killer. That we feel sluggish after a meal of processed and fast food is because of the fact that our microbes can’t break them down properly, which directly affects our brain and our mood. It’s the circle of bad habit.

Heavy meat consumption – just like processed food, a lot of meat can slow down the digestive system and cause a bad environment for our microbes. Meat, containing only protein and fat with no fiber makes it hard for our bacteria to work with. Chill down on the meat and incorporate more plant based protein such as beans and lentils together with all the greens you can find.

Alcohol – alcohol is know for two things. 1, you have fun and get turnt. 2, it kills bacteria. I think that’s pretty self explanatory right there. Red wine in moderation, notify moderation isn’t too harmful. But heavy drinking will mess up your system bad. Limit your drinking and if you are having a drink, try to not have too many mixed drinks which will add a lot of unnecessary sugar. The real problem with alcohol is that it messes up our sleep, which is crucial to our microbiome. We all know that feeling of disturbed sleep after a wild night. Yes, it’s fun to love it up once in a while, but try to do it responsibly.

Sugar – Sugar, more specifically processed refined sugar is as toxic as the plague. With sugar sneaked into almost everything we buy it’s not hard to see how our microbiome has been thrown out of wack throughout our generation. Become a label reader! Own the title of being that person in the grocery store reading all the labels. Buy bread and condiments with no added sugar or processed oil. It’s crazy how much sugar and oil they can sneak into a loaf of bread or a salsa. I mean come on! Salsa is a saucy sauce made of tomatoes and spices. We don’t need all that extra shit in there.

Take time in creating a pattern that works for you and your stomach. As mentioned earlier, we all have different macrobiotic environments and we all need to find what works best for us. We all benefit from the food and lifestyle choices listed above, but when and how you do it will vary depending on each individual. Think about your microbiome like a tiny society which lives a life just like you. They go to work, they party on the weekends and they just want to make their dreams come true. Whenever you’re feeling bloated or having some irregular bowel movements (yes, I’m talking about poop) you are creating a storm up in their lives. Start to pay more attention to how your gut is feeling and how it actually affects your mood. You will start to notice the connection as soon as you become mindful about it.

It’s a new week filled with new possibilities and let some fermented foods and veggies be a part of that equation! Make a microbiomic (this is not a real word) party down in your tummy because when your gut is having a party, your life is having a party!