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Brain-Gut Microbiome Connection:
RATED BLOG - AA (Athletic Audience)
Health, Science, Performance Enhancing Language, Athletic Audience Advised
This week in my journey to Bio-Cultivate, I was led in the direction of exploring the Brain-Microbiome field of science. Today, we are broadening our knowledge about how the brain communicates with the gut and how it communicates back to the brain.
Detrimental impacts resulting from long-established food production is more clearly understood now than ever. As a society, we are increasingly seeking healthier choices for all processed foods with high sugar content. This, in turn, is leading many food producers to re-examine their role of social responsibility. Some visionaries leading these large food companies are setting the stage to improve our national health profile and requiring them to see beyond the quarterly earnings report.
Nutrition and Science are entering a phase of increased rigor. The human microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes (bacteria, for the most part). Each bacterial species has a distinct function and is very important for our health. They allow us to digest food, breathe air, and fight off disease. Most of these microbes are located in the gut. Without the gut microbiome, it would be challenging to survive.
Amidst the current pandemic, we find ourselves thrown deeper into an already tenuous health predicament. One of the most impactful things we can do amid this public health emergency is to boost our immune system, which improves our chances of navigating this crisis with a better result.
Taking all the precautionary measures to limit our exposure is first and foremost. Still, for those of us who contract COVID, the best precautionary measure is to give our immune a better chance to do its job.
How do we do this? The answer is in our microbiome. The precautionary and protective benefits of having a healthy microbiome is its ability to strengthen our immune system. And experts now believe that 70% of our immune system resides in the gut. By communicating with immune cells, the gut microbiome can control how your body responds to infection.
The gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves. Therefore, the gut microbiome may also affect brain health by helping control the messages sent to the brain through these nerves. In fact, the gut microbiome is referred to as our body's second brain. The brain/gut connection is so extensive that it can operate independently without input from our central nervous system. Our second brain's job is to listen in on the trillions of microbes residing in the gut. Recent evidence indicates that not only is our brain "aware" of our gut microbes, but these bacteria can influence our perception of the world and alter our behavior.
In our quest to have a healthy microbiome, we need to pay careful attention to the different foods we eat and food diversity. Experiment by eating new plant foods and change them up. The more varied our healthy food intake, the better the foundation of a health-giving microbiome. Every plant has its own unique types of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. For example, resveratrol, a powerful plant-based natural phenol, can improve your microbiome. With a long list of benefits, resveratrol is just one example of how important plant-based whole foods are in a health-producing diet.
Consider that each plant has its own microbiome. An apple has more than a thousand species of microbes -- more than humans! When you eat an apple, you get the fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and even the microbiome from that apple. That can be said for any whole food product. But you need to eat a good diversity of whole foods to ensure that your microbiome is diverse, too. (By "whole foods," I mean those foods that are not processed, packaged, and have a list of ingredients.)
The more diverse your food list, the better to build optimal health and immunity. Take kale, for example. Kale is a superfood and can bring immense benefits to your overall health. If you eat kale daily, you will reap the benefits of kale, but you cannot rely on one food. Deficiencies arise because we don't eat an adequate variety of whole foods. And notably, a whopping 97% of Americans do not get the minimum daily fiber requirements. An easy solution is to eat more whole foods, especially plant-based.
Unfortunately, over time, our country's food production has created a system of short-term gain (Big Food/Pharma revenues) and long-term loss (soaring health care costs). Around 80% of the antibiotics in the US are not administered to humans, rather to livestock. Even more shocking is that if this is our mainstay, then our microbiome is becoming antibiotic-resistant. Livestock receives antibiotics, not for disease control but weight gain. They gain more weight because their microbiome is being destroyed.
Processed meats, especially, are loaded with these altered states. We eat processed meats or antibiotic-fed livestock along with their microbiome, and, in turn, this weight gain microbiome can be passed along to us. If you eat meat, make certain it is grass-fed, and it is a relatively smaller part of your overall diet. There are thousands of additives in processed foods that are unhealthy, yet processed foods are more than 50% of the average Americans' daily caloric intake.
Our brain's best friend is our gut. The brain talks to our gut through the Vagus nerve (information superhighway), hormones, and even through our sympathetic, parasympathetic nervous system. And return our gut also talks to our brain. When we change our microbiome, we change our cravings and our taste preferences. The gut is adaptable. It can change rapidly.
Biodiversity at the micro-level is key. Diversity in the plant-based foods you consume is all-important. If you read all the way to the end, I provide recommendations and opportunities for learning from the experts.
Here are a few more treasures unearthed for you this week.
- Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound found in vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage. It has been shown to provide powerful health benefits. Eat broccoli sprouts all the time!
- If you have a habit of eating while stressed, your microbiome can eventually create a new "set-point," leading to ongoing digestion issues. Your entire microbiome habitat and ecosystem system can be rearranged by chronic stress. Making a habit of relaxing for a few minutes before you eat will serve you well.
- The larger the amount of plant-based foods in our diet brings the greatest diversity to our microbiome. Make a special effort to diversify what you eat regularly.
- Sugar accelerates a negative growth effect in your gut. Your most concentrated efforts toward establishing a healthier microbiome is to reduce your sugar intake as quickly as possible.
- High sugar foods can disrupt your microbiome and lead to disease-producing organisms to grow out of control. Candida overgrowth is a result of high sugar diets. Symptoms may include tiredness, fatigue, digestive issues, sinus infections, joint pain, and other serious complications.
- Learn to think of food as medicine. If you can make this mental shift, it can help you in your efforts to regulate what you eat.
- Almost 95% of serotonin is produced and stored in the gut (second brain). Serotonin helps regulate your mood naturally. When your serotonin levels are at a normal level, you should feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer.
By reshaping your life, you can reshape your genetics and your health. You can live a longer, happier, and more productive life. A powerful mindset for leveraging optimal health is to embrace connections. Connect to and learn more about your microbiome. Connect with others and share this good news.
Recommended continued learning from this week comes from these notable experts in this field.
Optimize your microbiome: Dr. Will Bulsiewicz & Rich Roll Podcast
Why Your Gut Is Your Second Brain: Emeran Mayer on Health Theory
Everybody Who Eats Needs to Hear This Warning: Dr. David Perlmutter on Health Theory with Tom Bilyeu.
Each week I bring the results of my treasure hunts. This hunt places knowledge gems at your fingertips. Remember, Bio-Cultivating is a journey to Learn, Act, and Share. It is brought to you by Team Body Helix as we endeavor to not only bring you world-class compression gear, but world-class performance-enhancing knowledge for all athletes. We help you improve your Healthspan through exercising regularly and learning about many other components required for a healthy lifestyle.
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