Consider this: you have a second brain, it’s in your gut, and it is every bit as important as the brain in your head.
This gut-brain, which is our digestive system, has a network of more than a hundred million neurons, which are in direct communication with the brain in your skull. The neurons form a cover, surrounding the whole digestive tract. The nearly ten-meter-long tube of the digestive tract, running from your mouth to your anus, is covered by the cloak of the neurons. This gut-brain is not about philosophy, falling in love, creativity, or the meaning of life; its main job is the daily labour of digestion. It’s a huge job to break down food particles and extract the nutrients, absorb those nutrients, and get rid of the waste. But all this neural army isn’t dedicated only to digestion and elimination. The vagus nerve, like a snake, heads up through the body from your gut to your brain; it carries a load of vital information. What kind of information flows from the gut to the brain? And do those messages carry data, which will determine your feelings, your moods, and your gut instincts? You bet. I will tell you some important things about this in just a moment.
Western medicine is doing its best, using medication and surgery, to limit the carnage caused by your not-that-great food choices, auto-intoxicating habits, and sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, it ignores your body’s magnificent, natural ability to heal itself.
We get prescriptions of meds to address symptoms, but almost none to address the underlying causes of the imbalances that lead to illness. Holistic, naturopathic approaches to healing show that most of the diseases of today’s living originate in the gut and are related to our diet. Mental and emotional stress triggers physical responses that affect the gut and its chemical, imbalance negatively impacts the intestinal flora — as a result the immune system is severely weakened. The functioning and health of the brain is affected. When the garden of your bowel becomes unbalanced, with more harmful microorganisms than helpful ones, the microscopic life forms in your belly begin to produce toxins that alter your mood. By taking a better care of your gut, you are able to sleep better, recall your dreams in the morning, dream more lucidly, learn quicker and think more clearly, adapt more rapidly to new circumstances, leave work-related stress at the office, awaken your intuition and creativity… All as it was, when you were younger and less toxic. I believe the above can be achieved by upgrading your gut-brain.
The colonies of bacterial flora on our skin, in the mouth, and in the gut need to live harmoniously with one another. A healthy gut should be filled with gazillions of friendly intestinal bacteria that help you digest food properly, extract nutrients from it, and absorb vitamins. The gastrointestinal system is not supposed to be sterile. It only works well, if we have enough of the right flora in the gut. There are two main obstacles here. One: each time we took an antibiotic drug in the past, all the gut flora was erased — both the good guys (friendly bacteria), as well as the bad. Two: our guts are overwhelmed by the toxic load we’ve placed on them. Therefore we need to upgrade the gut-brain and this will require you to detox your body:
1. Remove environmental and chemical pollution inside the body.
2. Avoid genetically modified foods and processed foods.
3. Avoid the toxic effects of eating wheat, at least by skipping any flour-based products.
4. Avoid processed sugars.
Avoiding sugar, which is processed, is crucial. Sugary foods and carbs stimulate the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by heroin and cocaine. Dopamine is released, triggering a pleasure response. We rapidly associate the sugary foods and drinks with pleasure, and then, wanting more pleasure, we become addicted to comforting foods, but the comforting is a momentary sensation, which will hurt us later. Whenever we give in to our cravings and reach for cookies, pasta, a bagel, it means the bad bacteria are winning the battle for our guts. Those trouble makers live off the sugars. The toxins they put out affect the brain and other vital organs. According to the latest research, an active bacterial imbalance triggers a response in the immune and nervous systems that can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia and impaired mental function. This happens because the confused gut sends wrong signals to the brain and messes up the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, neurotransmitter dopamine, and reduces serotonin (the happy hormone) levels. Bad news.
Good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract help reduce cellular inflammation and keep the elimination process in order. They play an important role in creating and maintaining the immune system in your gut: they train your immune system to tell the difference between the microorganisms that make you sick and non-harming ones that help you fight disease. Almost all of us show signs of a gut-imbalance, even though, in our mind, we may not necessarily link gas, bloating, allergies, mood swings, and mild depression to problems with our digestive flora. The friendly bacteria are supposed to far outnumber the bad bacteria in the gut, in the ratio of 85 versus 15 percent. The grains, sugars, antibiotics, hormonal imbalances, drugs in non-organic meat and dairy products, all stimulate the growth of bad microbes and lower the amount of good bacteria.
Therefore, it is clear that what happens in the gut affects the whole body and your mood and mental state. The health and strength of your gut, the digestive system including the colonies of friendly microorganisms, the strength of your immune system, your ability to absorb vitamins, and your positive mental state are all essentially linked.
How to keep all those systems balanced? Here are simple pointers to send you on your way to health, vitality and a good mood:
• Eat whole, live, unprocessed foods. No refined sugars or grains that feed the unfriendly bacteria.
• Eat naturally fermented foods, daily, and rebuild the flora with probiotic supplements. They contain great amounts of friendly bacteria and will turn into a healthy ‘garden’ in your digestive tract.
• Educate yourself further and understand the causes of your digestive problems. All digestive problems are signs that food isn’t being properly broken down and assimilated.
Support your gut-brain by keeping the friendly bacteria abundant, healthy and happy!
Author’s note: I wrote this article from a combination of: learning from people around me (especially Mr. Starr and Mr. Izzy), first-hand experience of Dr. Bernard Jensen’s Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management program (at Atmanjai Wellness & Spa in Phuket, Thailand), research, and my recent surgical removal of the appendix.