Everything You Need to Know About the Fascinating Gut-Brain Connection
Gut Health is a hot topic right now, but what makes it so important and what difference do gut boosting foods actually make to our health and wellbeing? One of the key benefits of optimising your gut function is to look after your brain health. Here’s everything you need to know about the fascinating gut brain connection!
The Importance of Gut Health
The gut is home to your very own microbiome, a community or trillions of tiny microbes and over 4000 strains of bacteria. They work tirelessly to influence metabolism, blood sugar, immune response and even regulate mood and emotion.
It’s fascinating to learn that 70% of your immune system lives in your gut and is controlled by these hordes of friendly gut bacteria! So how does this work? Well, turns out there’s so much more to the gut than absorbing food and expelling waste.
The gut is the human body’s largest sensory organ, and a key advisor for the brain. This is all possible thanks to the Gut-Brain Axis.
The Gut-Brain Axis
Here’s the science-y bit! The Gut-Brain Axis (or GBA to you and me) is a signalling pathway which connects the gastrointestinal tract to the central nervous system. The pathway makes it possible for bidirectional communication between the gut and brain. So, the gut gathers information from the rest of the body and the environment then communicates this to the brain – which acts on the new information. Mind. Blown.
This is all possible thanks to clever little things like the vagus nerve, neurons, gut microbiota and neurotransmitters – all working hard to connect gut, brain and environment.
Why Is There A Gut-Brain Connection?
The human brain is incredible, but it needs lots of input to work its magic. It gets this input from sensory organs and the gut is a key player here. You might think that the brain would be the dominant communicator in the GBA system, but studies have shown that an astonishing 90% of communication goes from gut to brain, not brain to gut.
It’s estimated that there are around 500 million neurons in the gut whose job it is to transmit information to the brain. This helps to explain those ‘gut feelings’ we all experience – ever felt so nervous that you feel sick, or so upset that your stomach is too? That’s the gut-brain connection! A good example of the GBA in action is when we eat, the gut tells the brain we are hungry, the brain tells the body to eat and the gut lets the brain know when we are full again – makes sense right?
How Does the Gut Influence Brain Health?
Aside from communicating with the brain, the gut is also crucial in promoting brain health more directly. Let’s take a look:
Emotion – Poor gut health can cause unpleasant gastro symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. In extreme cases this can worsen digestive conditions and result in malabsorption of food. Research has found that managing negative emotions such as stress and worry can improve these symptoms and help to boost brain health.
Mood – 90% of serotonin, the happy chemical, is made in the gut. Studies have found that an imbalance in gut bacteria reduces serotonin so much that it can result in lack of motivation and low mood. Boosting your gut health can help to increase levels of serotonin to make you feel happier as well as healthier.
Mental Health – Looking after your gut increases the production of a chemical called Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter which helps to reduce anxiety symptoms. Studies have also found that people who suffer with digestive disorders such as IBS and IBD are at a greater risk of depression and that managing gastro symptoms helped to improve measures of depression.
Brain Disorders – When the gut is damaged its lining can become leaky and this results in nutrients being lost through the gut wall, this is a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky gut has been found to increase the risk of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and Schizophrenia. Getting the right nutrients from your diet is key in maintaining a healthy gut lining and preventing this condition.
Gut Boosting Foods to Optimise Brain Health
Gut friendly foods are all about feeding the good bacteria to protect the busy microbiome and help it function best. In turn, this helps the GBA to keep working its magic and boosts brain health. Here are our top 5 picks of the best gut boosting foods and nutrients:
Fermented Foods – Fermented foods such as Kefir, Miso, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Pickles and Kimchi contain high amounts of beneficial bacteria which support the microbiome.
Foods High in Fibre – Dietary fibre feeds gut bacteria and helps to keep your bowels regular. Get your recommended intake of 30g fibre per day by eating more fruit, veg, wholemeal carbs, rice and beans.
Garlic and Ginger – Garlic is known for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which fight off bad bacteria to protect good gut bacteria. Fresh ginger has been shown to stimulate stomach acid production and make the whole digestive process more efficient.
Healthy Fats – Gut bacteria love fatty acids and polyphenols, which work to reduce inflammation – the root cause of many gut disorders. Healthy fats are found in abundance in nuts, seeds, coconuts, avocados and olive oil.
Almonds – High in probiotics, fibre and fatty acids for a triple whammy gut-boosting impact! Snaking on almonds is a convenient and reliable way to boost your gut health between meals.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about the fascinating gut-brain connection! Yumchi Kimchi is a gut-friendly and delicious fermented snack which can be enjoyed as part of your healthy lifestyle to help boost gut and brain health. It’s packed with millions of gut-boosting bacteria and is naturally fermented to unlock nutrients like lactic acid which support gut health and can help to protect your brain from within!