Gut health – as of lately, this has been a widely discussed topic! If you didn’t already know, brain and gut health are intimately connected. The relationship between two is a complex and dynamic one, but it’s important to understand it. It’s crucial to maintain both gut and brain health for optimal wellness and personal well-being.
What is gut health?
Gut health can be defined as covering multiple aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract includes the stomach, colon, small intestine, and large intestine. It includes the effective digestion and absorption of food, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, the absence of GI illness, and effective immune status and state of well-being overall.
It basically means that your digestive system is operating properly, and you have no issues with your stomach. Maintaining good gut health is vital for reducing the risk of GI issues and improving the immune system. Unfortunately, many people struggle with having a healthy gut.
Tips to improve gut health
There are simple ways that you can improve your gut health. The most basic way is to improve your diet. Your body will react positively to healthy foods, and negatively to unhealthy foods. Try to maintain a balanced diet, including heart healthy fruits and vegetables, and proper amounts of protein. Consider adding a prebiotic supplement, or consuming more foods with prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds that induce the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. They can also alter the composition of organisms in the gastrointestinal tract, improving gut health.
Other suggestions, as stated by Medical News today, include:
- Eating less sugars and sweeteners
- Avoiding taking antibiotics unnecessarily
- Avoiding excess stress
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding smoking
- Getting sufficient sleep
What is brain health?
Brain health is defined as the state of the brain functioning across cognitive, social-emotional, sensory, behavioral, and motor domains. It allows a person to realize their fullest potential over their life course. By working on improving one’s brain health, it is thought that you can reduce cognitive decline over time. Good brain health is essential for a person’s overall welling. This is due to the brain controlling a majority of important bodily functions, such as sensation, thought, and movement.
Tips to improve brain health
There are various ways to improve one’s brain health. Try to stay both mentally and physically active over the course of your life, to help support cognitive function. To keep yourself mentally stimulated, try engaging in activities that help to challenge the brain. Some of these activities can include learning a new skill, playing games, or reading. Making sure to get enough sleep is also vital for maintaining optimal brain health. Certain foods and dietary patterns have been linked to better overall brain health. It is believed that following a Mediterranean diet can help brain health. A mediterranean diet consists of mostly plant-based meals, often including olive oil, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, beans, herbs, and spices. It includes small amounts of protein, mainly fish and seafood. This diet is believed to help reduce the risk of having problems with learning and memory. Harvard completed an 18-month clinical trial to try and see the effects that diet has on brain atrophy. They found that, “those on the green Mediterranean diet had the greatest reduction in brain atrophy over the study compared to other participants. In addition, people on both types of Mediterranean diets had significantly reduced shrinkage of the hippocampus compared to those on the standard healthy diet”.
Connection between brain and gut health
So how exactly is our brain health and gut health connected? Emotional and cognitive centers of the brain are linked with intestinal functions of the body. There are many connections between the brain and the gut, including the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects the brain and gut, using neurotransmitters and gut hormones, which all help play a vital role in mood, pain, sleep, stress, and hunger. There is communication between the gut and the brain through hormones, the immune system, and the nervous system. The enteric nervous system, or ENS, regulates our gut health and is often referred to as our “second brain”. The ENS controls many of our gut functions including digestion, adsorption, and secretion of fluids and electrolytes.
There are examples of the brain and gut connection that many of us can probably relate to. When you feel an increased amount of stress or anxiety, your digestive system might respond by abdominal pain or diarrhea. On the contrary, if you are feeling happy or excited, you might feel the “butterflies” in your stomach, which is another trigger your brain sends to your gut. The fight or flight response is another example of your brain and gut working together and responding to each other.
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To restful and healthy days ahead,
The Relaxium Team
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease
 Gut health: a new objective in medicine? (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
 10 Ways to Improve Gut Health (medicalnewstoday.com)
 Gut Health and Pain (northernpaincentre.com)
 Green Mediterranean diet may help protect against brain atrophy (hsph.harvard.edu)