What if you knew that your gut could actually affect how you feel on a day to day basis? That your gut could determine your moods? How would understanding the gut potentially change your decisions when it comes to your diet and how you treat your health? Through research and multiple studies, huge strides have been gained when learning how the gut impacts the health of an individual.
Healthy Gut Vs. Unhealthy Gut
Many tend to think that as long as you are passing a regular stool on a daily basis your gut health is fine. Though this is one indicator of a healthy gut, it is certainly not the only one. It may be surprising but an unhealthy gut can possess little to no symptoms – at least not any symptoms directly associated with the gut which is what most people will think about when questioning their gut health. By definition, a healthy gut equates to a good balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. By having a healthy microbiome community within your gut, your body is able to obtain energy from the food you eat, fight off harmful bacteria and viruses, and get rid of toxins. A healthy gut microbiome community will consist of a diverse amount of bacterial colonies that impact your overall health. So, an unhealthy gut in contrast will consist of fewer CFU’s (colony forming units) and a smaller variety of bacteria leading to possible health issues that you may not recognize as being associated with the gut.
Studies Reveal How An Unhealthy Gut Can Impact The Brain
There is a growing amount of evidence revealing how the microbiome community actually affects the brain and mental health of an individual. Mental health is a huge concern for the overall population, with depression alone affecting more than 260 million people worldwide. A recent article posted in Nature Communications shared observations linking mood disorders and damage to the gut. Scientists at Institut Pasteur, the CNRS and Inserm were able to identify a correlation with the gut microbiota, the bacterial population of the gut, and the efficacy of fluoxetine; a molecule commonly used as an antidepressant.
Chronic stress was identified in causing changes to the gut microbiota, leading to depressive behaviors because of a reduction in lipid metabolites (small molecules resulting from metabolism) in the blood and brain. These lipid metabolites function as a communication system in the body that when hindered play a part in impacting the function of the brain and mood regulation. Lipid metabolites are stimulated by endogenous cannabinoids, otherwise known as EC’s, that aid in regulating energy balance. When this endocannabinoid system in the hippocampus, a key region of the brain that is responsible for the formation of memories and emotions, is not functioning properly depressive-like behaviors are observed.
All results were obtained through studying the microbiomes of healthy animals and those with perceived mood disorders. The Head of the Perception and Memory Unit at Institute Pasteur stated that transferring microbiota from an animal with mood disorders to one in good health was enough to see biochemical changes and leave the latter with depressive-like behaviors. Bacterial species were identified in animals that when significantly reduced, left the animals with mood imbalances. Oral treatments were given demonstrating that when these bacterial species were given to the animals with mood disorders, normal levels of lipid derivatives were restored alleviating depression-like behaviors. Such treatments would serve as a natural antidepressant referred to as psychobiotics.
How To Establish A Healthy Gut
There are multiple factors when it comes to establishing a healthy gut. Stress, sleep, diet and hydration are all common factors that influence the microbiome of your gut community. Other factors like alcohol, food intolerances, how fast you eat, or changes in your diet can also affect your gut health. This said, focusing on these core components can have a dramatic impact on establishing a healthy gut. First, making sure that you have a healthy sleep routine will aid in reducing any stress levels Exercising on a consistent basis will have a similar effect. Eating a healthy diet that includes natural probiotics will help produce ‘good’ bacteria within your gut as will drinking enough water and staying away from sugar. Foods rich in fiber, collagen boosting foods, and fermented foods or drinks will each play a role in building a healthy bacterial community that your body can thrive on. Whether you start to introduce these things into your day to day immediately or a little bit at a time, it’s important that your goal is to develop lifestyle changes that will establish a healthy gut for your future. Temporary fixes will not be a solution to establishing a healthy gut or reaching your optimal level of health. Working with our Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach can be a great way to have support as you implement these changes.
It is becoming all too common for people to have an imbalance in the bacteria of their gut microbiome, but it is promising to know that this can be restored so your brain, moods, and overall health can function at their greatest potential.