Your brain is in control of all of your thoughts and movements. It is what tells you to get up out of bed in the morning and to lift that cup of coffee to your lips. So many of our daily activities and actions are ruled by our brain that it seems as though it is the control room for our entire bodies. But as it turns out, our brain is not the only part of our bodies that has control over the rest of our bodies. Science has found that human bodies are actually controlled largely by a “second brain,” otherwise known as the gut.
As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut,” and he was right. The difference between this second brain and the brain in our heads, is that we get to control what goes into the second one. The gut, or gastrointestinal system, is what digests the food that we put into our bodies. Body weight, energy levels, and even mood are all linked to this second brain of ours and can affect our overall health for good or for worse, all depending on what we eat.
These days, the processed and sugary foods that we put into our bodies wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Our digestive tracts are full of bacteria that we need for digestion and for absorbing nutrients. Food is the energy source that fuels our minds and bodies, so the kind of food we choose has direct correlation to how our body will feel while it burns that energy. When we pump our systems full of food that does not support the good bacteria in our digestive systems that keeps us healthy, we are actually causing harm to our entire bodies.
The idea of tiny bacteria living inside of your gut may sound a bit odd, but they are really amazing little helpers for your entire body. There is good bacteria and there is bad bacteria. The good bacteria regulates your immune system, keeping you healthy and strong. They also help digest your food and produce nutrients that your body needs to fight off toxins and pathogens, or the things that make you feel sick or sluggish. The good news is, gut health can be restored and improved upon with help from the proper foods.
Your Gut vs. Disease
There are several diseases that have long been connected with the gut such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even colorectal cancer. It is quite common that your genes play a large role in diseases involving the intestines, but a great deal of discomfort and sick time can be relieved by paying attention to what you feed your gut bacteria and how different foods make you feel. Eliminating common irritants such as gluten and dairy may vastly improve your digestion or energy levels, so experimenting with elimination diets is highly recommended. By improving the health of your gut, you decrease the likelihood of developing diseases and illnesses because you are improving the strength of your immune system and also feeding your body foods that will give you energy to fight off harmful toxins.
What to Feed Your Gut
Thinking of your body as a machine that operates at its best when given the fuel it really needs is one way to start making food decisions that your gut will thank you for. Our bodies are natural, living things, so the best food for our bodies and our digestive systems is food that was also once living. Eliminating processed, sugary, and high fat foods from our diets and replacing them with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and good fats is the first step in restoring gut health.
The bacteria within our gut is extremely diverse and needs a variety of foods to do their best job at digestion and elimination. A mixture of prebiotic and probiotic foods support the diverse microbiome that the bacteria make up. Prebiotics are foods that contain fibers the bacteria feed on such as almonds, asparagus, bananas, garlic, mushrooms, oats, and onions. Probiotic foods actually provide our systems with a wider variety of bacteria, that help the resident bacteria do their jobs better. Some probiotic foods you may consider adding to your diet are pickles, yogurt or kefir, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or beets, and fermented tea, or kombucha.