I’m an evidence based practitioner. This means that I focus on theories which have the science to back them up.
There is one such area of nutrition theory, which has come in leaps and bounds over the last 5 years. So much so that I actually overhauled by whole family’s diet as a result (and that is something I have not done for a LONG time).
This is the science of the gut-brain-immune axis.
In particular the last 2 years have seen a BOOM in the number of studies showing us that the health of our gut directly impacts not only our physical health, but also how we think.
Not only that – but how we think impacts how healthy our gut is!
Here is a practical example. Think of a time you’ve been anxious or nervous. Do you get a feeling in your tummy? We typically call it ‘butterflies’. Some super sensitive people may even get excess wind or lose bowel movements.
This is not to diminish the situational depression or anxiety people are faced with. However there are some real results coming out of research. One study study took university students and measure their gut microbiome over the course of the year.
During average term times they have a reasonably healthy and diverse bacteria composition. However when exam time rolls around their microbiome takes a dive. The diversity and composition of healthy bacteria diminishes. They also report feeling more stressed, anxious, and show symptoms of minor depression.
You see in recent years the gut has been given the name “the second brain”. Indeed it shares many basic commonalities.
Your brain has approx. 100 billion neurons which send and receive messages from around your body. The gut also contains these neurons – some 500 million of them! Not quite the billions in the brain, but still nothing to be scoffed at.
These neurons ‘talk’ to each other via the vagus and spinal nerves. The health of these nerves and the gut microbiome influence messages being fired between the brain and gut.
Science is showing us that there is a breakdown of this axis in conditions such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, anxiety, and depression.
Interestingly, recent animal studies are showing that improving the health of the gut through nutrition have a positive impact on stress hormones in the body.
Inversely working on stress and anxiety through exercise, meditation, and therapy is helping with gut health – reducing symptoms of conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome!
There are not only neurons in your gut but neurotransmitters. These are chemicals which cause the release of hormones and other signals affecting how we think and feel.
Serotonin for example is a neurotransmitter which is almost entirely produced in the gut and plays a very important role in anxiety, happiness, and mood.
How does what we eat impact this system?
Well the chemicals released in our gut, the health of the gut-brain axis, and the strength of the gut wall to inhibit the release of toxins into our blood stream are all regulated by the bacteria living in our gut.
Some bacteria work to strengthen our system, whilst other bacteria releases biproducts which breakdown the system causing inflammation and disease.
We can impact the composition of our gut bacteria through what we eat.
Good bacteria survive and thrive on wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Bad bacteria multiplies with simple sugars, meat, and dairy.
In fact meat and saturated fat has been shown to be one of the biggest contributors to a poor gut microbiome. This may go some way to understanding why the cholesterol and saturated fat hypothesis has fallen short in recent years.
It also explains why, despite the surge in popularity of paleo and keto, these diets are not seeing long term health improvement across the general population. They are actually working to destroy our good gut bugs, increase inflammation, and degrade our gut-brain axis. Eek!
So next time you get a flurry in your tummy, or feeling a bit bloated and blah during a stressful time, you may find some success by having a little look at what you’re eating and going for a few short walks!
If you are struggling to fit relaxation techniques, healthy eating, and exercise into your super hectic mum life then I have a solution for you.
Starting Monday Oct 29th is our 6 week ‘Mum Boost’ programme.
The 6 Week Mum Reboot is supportive group health program which recognises you're not some 22 year old who can run out the door to the gym when you feel like it, or live purely on quinoa and mung beans (mmm mung beans).
Unlike other programs where you have to completely overhaul everything in the first week. This will work on changing core habits and building on these each week. You will be in a supportive group with me offering professional guidance and fellow mum TLC.
In six weeks you can go from frustrated, bloated, tired, a little bit overwhelmed, and just generally blah to feeling;
Motivated. Awake. Fitter. Happier. Challenged.
Get more info and sign up here.
References (just a few to get you started)