“Our body is an ecosystem. This ecosystem must be maintained.” -Illchi Lee
The second brain, otherwise known as the gut plays an important role in serving as the internal ecosystem of the body. Besides digestion, the gut impacts our immunity, weight, and emotions. For this post, we are going to explore the reason why the gut is our second brain and the foods that promote optimal gut health.
According to the documentary “The Gut: Our Second Brain” (you can watch this on Gaia), the number of nerve cells (approximately 100 million) that are located in our gut is the equivalent to that in a cat or dog. This means that the gut literally has a mind of its own and operates as such, Because the gut houses 80% of our immunity, the microorganisms act as a messenger for the whole body which can start or stop the process of chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes. The good bacteria produced in your gut can also create antibodies strong enough to fight toxic pathogens. They are even complex enough to recognize if a foreign bacteria is benign so that the system doesn’t work more than it needs to.
There have been various studies backing up the notion that gut bacteria impacts weight. In this case, the gut is responsible for extracting the calories from the foods we consume. What was found is that with obese people tend to have a higher number of a specific type of bacteria called Firmicutes (which digests calories from sugar and deposits them as fat) and a lower count of Bacteroides (which creates energy). In a study involving animals, the result was that mice who were injected with Firmicutes doubled in weight gain from fat.
Chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine can all be found in our intestines, with serotonin having the highest concentration in our gut rather than the brain which might come as a shock (it was for us!). Research has affirmed that gut activity influences changes in genes that involve mind and motor control. This means that changes in mood can be directly correlated to an imbalance or lack of exposure to good bacteria.
So how we do we know if our gut is in its healthiest state? Look out for symptoms such as
If you’ve been experiencing one or more of these symptoms on a frequent basis, take it as a sign that your gut is screaming for attention. Look at the foods you’ve been consuming in relation to your physical activity to get to the root of the problem. These are the common explanations as to why your gut has been in a funk
- Antibiotics: Your body can get used to the antibiotic which can eventually make you resistant to it long term and vulnerable to powerful viruses that overtake your immune system. This destroys the bacteria in your system.
- Processed foods containing: fructose, casein, gluten, and lectin
- “All natural” foods: While it hints at being a more healthier option, the label can be misleading. Consuming foods that are typically non-organic or have some genetic engineering can cause distress to your gut because of the pesticides and fertilizers used. While these types of foods are more expensive and may be unavailable for your budget, try to opt for foods made conventionally or have the least amount of manipulation.
The best way to improve your gut health is to consume foods that have the essential nutrients in maintaining this system. The two biggest ones are probiotics and fermented foods. There are many products that you can consume to get your intake of probiotics. This includes kombucha (our favorite), yogurt, soy milk, pickles, and kimchi just to name a few. For fermented foods, many of the products we stated previously are included in this category, with the addition of tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut.
Given these points, the importance of gut health as a connector to the brain and other areas of the body is proven to make a substantial impact on the way we feel. Health should be a number one priority regardless of what you are doing. We challenge you to reflect on your eating habits and see if your current practice supports a healthy gut.
What are some of the ways you improve your gut? And what has your experience been like in improving your gut health or what steps do you intend on making to reach this point? We would love to hear your perspective on the comments below.
Lots of love,
Jasmine and Phrieda