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Gut, Mind & Mood – Everyday Boosters for your Second Brain

By Honor Tremain
from Noosa Nutrition

What if we had the power to rewrite our entire health, including our own mental health?

In the world of science and nutrition, it’s become apparent that we can do exactly that.

Figures from The World Health Organisation show that mental health issues like depression and anxiety, are now some of the leading causes of disability and death in the age groups 15-29 years, worldwide.

While social disorders, ASD spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and psychiatric illnesses are all rising alongside it.

Why?

Theorised Reasons:

  • The Western diet has completely changed how we eat. Only 40 years ago our diets were a majority of whole foods that were seasonal from local farms around us.
  • Today, what’s considered a staple, is predominantly a high carb, fatty, sugary, non-fibrous substance, with sprinklings of pesticides, GMO’s and additives. For many in the Western world, this has become the dietary norm.
  • And increased use of antibiotics and chemicals in foods, drinks, home and body products and the environment, all impacting:

The Second Brain:

Your enteric nervous system (ENS) or Second Brain runs from your mouth to anus within the gastrointestinal tract, woven among the layers of your gut.

A nervous system is like a messenger or mailing system, shooting instructions all over the body. Such as the central nervous system (CNS), which runs between the brain in your skull and along the spine.

But the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is different, it includes a colonization of foreign microorganisms collectively called our microbiome; an assemblage of up to a thousand varying strains of bacteria, archaea, viruses and fungi that outnumber our human cells 10:1, many of which remain unidentified as of yet.

Scientists are heralding this microbiome as one of the most complex eco-systems on earth, having co-evolved over millions of years to shape and condition human development.

The ENS and microbiome functions:

  • Breakdown of undigested foods, fibre, cellulose and polyphenols,
  • Supply of essential nutrients,
  • Synthesise Vitamin K.
  • One of our largest immune organs, producing, modulating, training and programming the immune system.
  • Neurotransmitters like serotonin= ‘the happy hormone’, are largely manufactured in the ENS, the gut bacteria themselves, influence these processes.

“A healthy microbiome­ is now known to be one of the foundations of proper childhood development, including mind and mood health, overall health, and healthy ageing.” Says Stanford University Adjunct Clinical Professor, Lifestyle Medicine physician and author of ‘On The Path to Health, Wellbeing and Fulfilment’ Iris Schrijver, who I spoke to recently about the influence of our gut bacteria and the mind, body connection.

“The gut bacteria from the microbiome communicate with the brain and other organs all the time!” Says Professor Schrijver.

“One example of this is how they influence our emotions and mood. But the brain also sends signals to the digestive system, for example when we are stressed because of physical or emotional hardships. This can change the balance between the good guys and the bad guys in the microbiome, and therefore what neurochemicals they help produce.”

So profound is the emerging evidence that our gut bacteria and microbiome influence our mind, science is currently discussing the re-naming of them to; ‘psychobiotic drugs’.

What Foods To Supply Them.

The impact we have over what we eat and what our microbiome (gut bacteria) are doing with it, is profound, especially in the sphere of our neurochemicals (chemicals which influence our brain and nervous system).

What we know at the moment is:

  • If we eat the typical Western diet, low in fibre, and higher in processed, fast foods, bad bacteria thrive, allowing more room for illness and disease to start, including those negatively affecting mood and mind.
  • Alternatively, if we eat high fibre, antioxidant-rich foods, such as found in fresh vegetables, fruits, pulses and whole grains, the good bacteria flourish and there’s less illness or disease in mind or body.

Building a Mighty Microbiome:

Prebiotics: Fibre Foods

Professor Matt Cooper, chemical biologist, confirms high fibre foods feed good gut bacteria. He suggests increasing: raw vegetables, carrot and celery sticks, apples, legumes, brown rice and fibrous whole grains as part of your regular diet.

Acetate Hack: Vinegar

Professor Cooper also recommends adding good quality vinegar to your diet, like apple cider vinegar or other organic options, that mimic the by-product of good gut bacteria: acetate, which lowers inflammation and boosts health in the body and mind.

Probiotics:

Studies demonstrate probiotics assist good gut bacteria and overall mood and cognition in those who take them.

Check with your practitioner or myself for the right strains and/or dosages for you.

The Power is Yours:

So even though there are times you may feel down or isolated, particularly at the moment with the world under the pressures of COVID,

Remember: You are not alone. Literally!

You house one of the most complex universes of other living organisms within you that want to benefit you if you work with them, aiding your mental and physical strength on all levels.

So, be friends and work together.

References:

-Interviews with:

-Professor Iris Schrijver, Stanford University, Adjunct Clinical Professor, Lifestyle Medicine physician, former President of the Association for Molecular Pathology and author of ‘On The Path to Health, Wellbeing & Fulfilment: To Your Health’.

-Professor Matthew Cooper, Professor of Chemical Biology, formerly of the Institute of Molecular Bioscience, Affiliate Professor in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Queensland.

Mukhopadhya I, The gut virome: the ‘missing link’ between gut bacteria and host immunity? Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2019; 12: 1756284819836620.

Published online 2019 Mar 25, at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435874/

More about the author

Gut, Mind & Mood – Everyday Boosters for your Second Brain
Honor Tremain
– Noosa Nutrition

Honor Tremain, Nutritionist - DipNut, BHlthScien(ComplMed), AdvCertIrid,

Honor Tremain is a practicing, qualified Nutritionist, author, journalist and owner of Noosa Nutrition on the Sunny Coast of Queensland, Australia.

She’s been in the health field for over 20 years, starting off as a Nutritional Medical supervisor at Sydney’s Nature Care College, while opening her first practice on Sydney’s Southern Shire.

Honor has been a journalist for more than 13 years, offered her first health column for an international health and fitness magazine. From there, she branched out into News media world, and wrote for the national APN newspapers, interviewing some of the brightest minds in the world on science, nutrition, health and psychology, which she’s continued doing for her current weekly blog.

Honor is currently finishing her third health and recipe book, while treating clients from her Sunny Coast clinic, with a focus on chronic inflammation, gut health, fertility, childhood behaviour issues, general immune boosting programs, post viral issues, weight loss and more.

Honor specialises in using food as a very real medicine, marrying science with traditional medicine and holism.