We have two brains — one in your head and the other in your gut! Both are created from the same tissue during fetal development and both are connected via the vagus nerve which extends from the brain stem to the abdomen.
Bacteria in the gut use the vagus nerve to transmit information to your brain, which helps explain why mental health appears to be so intricately connected to your gut . The gut- brain connection has been widely recognized in the last few years so let’s break it down in simple terms…
We literally have thousands of different types of bacteria in our gut that perform a myriad of duties every day essential to our well-being. One of those duties is the production of neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine, the ratios of which are largely dependent upon the bacterial balance within the gut In fact, over 80% of our serotonin is actually produced within our intestinal tract!
The food we consume directly affects the bacterial balance in the gut. High fibre foods and resistant starches help good bacteria in the gut to proliferate whilst sugar and processed foods ‘feed’ and actually encourage the growth of bad bacteria. As an extension of this, it is well known that food can affect your mental state.
For example, researchers have found that fermented foods helped curb social anxiety disorder in young adults. In another study, mice that engaged in obsessive-compulsive repetitive behaviors were pacified when given a strain of the bacteria Bacteroides fragilis.
Sugar can aggravate depression and suppresses the activity of a key growth hormone in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia. Sugar also triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that promotes inflammation that suppresses the immune system and wreaks havoc on your brain.
Last but not least, refined sugar and processed fructose and grains are key contributors to insulin and leptin resistance, which also plays a significant role in your mental health.
Parents of anxious kids- get their gut checked! Adults, life is too short to be permanently anxious – you will age prematurely and suffer from cortisol (stress hormone) driven diseases!
There is no dispute over the fact that ‘YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT’ and now we can state with confidence that ‘YOU THINK WHAT YOU EAT, METABOLISE AND DIGEST!”