Often referred to as your body’s second brain, the microbiome of bacteria found within your gastrointestinal tract plays a staggering role in many of your bodily functions, dictating everything from your risk of certain diseases to how your body metabolizes nutrients, as well as which hormones your body should produce based on incoming information. This influence applies to your “first brain” since it is in constant communication with the bacteria in your gut as they help it dictate what to do and when.
But the relationship is more than just one of instructor/instructee—the bacteria in your gut can actually influence your mood. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, for example, you may have written off any accompanying depression and anxiety as a side effect of the disorder, but researchers are beginning to understand the triggers in your GI tract may be what is causing both your tummy discomfort and the emotional response you are experiencing. In other words, you aren’t just sad because you are uncomfortable—there’s a greater, unexplored system at play.
So how do you keep both your tummy and your brain happy? Experts say eating a diet free from as many processed or refined foods as possible can help, and since the vast majority of serotonin receptors—90% of them, to be exact—are located in your gut, treating your body to whole, nutritionally dense foods can help stoke the get-happy fires within you. Keep in mind this is area a burgeoning science, known as nutritional psychiatry, so while the exact mechanisms aren’t fully understood just yet, the science community is inching closer and closer to a research-backed comprehension of how to get ahead of these first- and second-brain woes.
Feed a Healthy Brain
Don’t let your genetics or current lifestyle write your future cognitive health story. Take control of what you can starting right now and feed a brain that is resilient to cognitive decline and disease, has better recall later in life and is more laser-focused right now.
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Learn more at cleaneating.com/healthybrain