Gut Bacteria and mental as well as whole body wellness.
I find it so interesting how much even the most well researched and educated people in our time do not yet understand so many things about how our body works. This is especially true with the interaction of our cells, genes, and the bacteria that lives in and on us. The bits of information that we do have on this area, and the daily outcomes of analysis and research projects are providing incredibly amazing outcomes on the effects that the many different types of bacteria can have on us.
In the past, when bacteria was being referenced, we were mostly thinking of them as bad guys and the need for antibiotics to destroy bacteria - all bacteria. That is changing. It’s been increasingly clear in the past decade that our reliance on beneficial bacteria is critical to our health, in all of our bodily systems. Where we can see it is with the most current studies that are coming out is in the digestive function (which is the center of all health) but even more so in the impact on our brain for mental function and mood and all things in between. Turns out these 2 areas are inextricably linked - the gut and the brain.
There is this term used for this - it is the gut-brain axis and it refers to the gut and brain talking to each other. Maybe you have heard of the vagus nerve? That is the communication control centre between the body and the brain as it carries sensory information from the internal organs back to the brain.
There is only so much room here to provide some tantalizing key concepts on this massive and important area, so I will try to keep it to the highlights just to peak your interest. You may have heard this already but it is so stunning, it is worth repeating and letting it sink in.
As a human, you have about 10 trillion cells in your body. Compare that to the optimally 100 trillion bacteria that lives with you. Consider that - 10 times more bacteria in quantity than human cells. Seems like a key indicator of the importance of paying attention to those “tenants". It make me wonder, who really is driving this bus of our body? With that many bacteria, maybe we are just a vehicle for bacteria. If so, then it would be reasonable to wonder if some of our ailments actually happen primarily when those beneficial bacteria numbers get too low and need a boost. Especially in the area of mental health. This is what the research is showing. Studies add certain strains of beneficial bacteria and you likely witness an improvement in that ailment. Pretty exciting stuff.
Considering that we are bombarded daily with things that take down both our good and bad bacteria, getting a boost of the good guys can be helpful.
A few things to consider limiting as they can kill off good bacteria include antibiotics, chlorinated water, antibacterial soaps and sanitizers, some types of hard alcohol, and smoking.
So how can we improve our bacteria quality and quantity? There are a number of ways.
1.) Add in more good bacteria using probiotic rich foods. Important to go slow here - start small! Even a teaspoon or less of some of these foods, to start, can cause a huge transition of changing the ecology of your bacteria. If you feel some shifts happening (digestive challenges, headaches, etc) drop down to half of what you consumed until things settle, then increase slowly. What foods are probiotics? Those would be fermented foods such as:
-Cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir.
-Fermented veggies such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and traditional pickles, beet kvass, really any veggie can be used.
-Fermented soy such as miso, tamari, tempeh.
-Vinegars made traditionally such as apple cider vinegar - with the mother (not the same at all as distilled vinegar).
-Kombucha - a fermented beverage made from tea and natural sugar using a SCOBY. The bacteria eat the sugar so the result is not high in sugar nor is it sweet in flavour.
2.) Then feed the good bacteria - Eat foods high in fibre as good bacteria use fibre for food as it is a prebiotic. Food high in fibre are plants such as veggies, legumes, fruit, and whole grains. Eat real garden veggies that are rinsed well but not peeled. There is evidence that the soil based bacteria that we get from foods that are grown in healthy soil is also something we are no longer getting as much of as our previous generations had.
3.) Starve the bad bacteria - Eat foods low in sugars, even natural ones, as that is what the bad bacteria eat to grow. We will always have some amount of the not so good bacteria. They key is have MORE of the good guys to keep the bad guys in check. When bad bacteria out number the good that is what is referred to as Dysbiosis and that is a factor in gut and vaginal and skin challenges.
4.) Add in the rest of the supports - areas such as good sleep and stress reduction helps improve our internal environment in which the bacteria can thrive.
Here is a quote from Dr.Kharrazian who is leading many of the areas of research on the microbiome. He’s worth checking into if you too are interested in this great stuff!
“We are really in the area of research where the microbiome is hitting all fields. Microbiome health is impacting cardiology, neurology, immunology, endocrinology. They are finding your gut microbiome can affect all these different disease processes. They are still trying to figure out how, but they do know the more diverse your gut is, the more protective effects you have through all these different diseases.”
— Dr. Datis Kharrazian
Have a great week!