In a previous blog ‘Improving my health‘ my biggest insight was that I didn’t know my body and it’s functioning at all, let alone the impact of my diet on my health. Due to this insight I decided to start taking full responsibility again for my health. Which meant two things; 1) change my diet and 2) educate myself more how to change it. What elements did I need to (re)consider? So I started reading books. And one book turned out to be a real game changer for me personally. Gulia Enders pictures in her book ‘Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ’ (in Dutch ‘De mooie voedselmachine’), our gut as second brain.
Gut as second brain
And apparently she wasn’t the only one recognizing the importance of this organ (microbiome) on our health. On Facebook I found several articles on this topic and I kept on reading more articles and books. This is extremely fascinating information and a completely new area of scientific research. There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria and a vast neural network operating in our guts. This ecosystem is our second brain, and comprises some 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord. This is not a thinking brain—it does not reason, write poetry, or solve multi-linear regressions—but mounting evidence suggests that your gut’s health strongly influences your mood. If you are interested you can check out this video I found on Youtube from AsapScience for more information about the second brain and its connection to everything from food cravings to autistic traits.
So, our gut bacteria produce hormones and neurotransmitters that our bodies require for emotional stability and cognitive function. They also adjust the immune system, switch genes on and off, and send messages to the brain via the vagus nerve. One of the articles I have read ‘Microbiome: The Body’s Great Conductor‘ is even quoting the renowned ancient physician Hippocrates. As this approach connects to an old idea about health.
All disease begins in the gut.
So, most likely our gut bacteria are a missing link in our current practice of medicine. Several medication unknowingly can destroy our microbiome with much more impact than we are aware off. Life saving medication no doubt, should always be prescribed and taken. However, medication for chronic disease(s) might do more harm as the impact on our gut bacteria has never been tested yet. Something, to keep in mind.
A healthy gut
Once aware of my gut as second brain, I want to take better care of it. But how? If everything we take in – food, drugs, toxins, and even emotions – can alter our bacterial system, it means we must consider the bigger picture and take a more holistic approach. Dr Kellman said: “When you heal the microbiome, it has an incredible ability to orchestrate health on so many levels.”
For me taking better care means (as I’m still educating myself, I might make some adjustments over time):
- no alcohol on regular basis (I used to drink a couple of glasses per week, now about once a month)
- fresh and organic food
- more prebiotic and probiotic foods
- work with my hands in the garden and don’t wash my hands too often (natural bacteria intake)
- I only take medication if it is really needed (always give my body a couple of days to heal itself). If I cannot avoid medication I always take a probiotic supplement to support my gut bacteria
- reduce cosmetics and skin products (to avoid toxics) or use it on clothes instead of skin
- avoid sugar
- try to meditate or exercise on a daily basis
How do you take better care of your gut bacteria? I’m really curious to know as this area of expertise (your gut as second brain) is new and insights are still changing rapidly….