Written by Zoe Manukian
Over winter break, I was surprised to learn from my doctor that the gut essentially serves as the human body’s second brain. The way we treat our gut can greatly impact not just our stomach or our energy levels, but our hormones and mental well-being also. In fact, 90% of our serotonin comes from our gut, giving us a great reason to consider what we put into it.
According to Dr. Siri Carpenter of the American Psychological Association, “In just the last few years, evidence has mounted from studies in rodents that the gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry, and a wide range of behavioral phenomena, including emotional behavior, pain perception and how the stress system responds.” She explains that we are all essentially born with sterile guts, and over time, we put both good and bad bacteria into it and ideally cultivate a strong group of organs equipped to ward off illness.
The gut also regulates mood, memory, and learning capacity. According to Healthline, an upset stomach, unintentional weight loss or weight gain, sleep disturbances or fatigue, and food intolerances are all indications of an unhealthy gut. Certain gut problems or imbalances can be rectified with special attention to diet or by taking supplements such as Glutamine. Probiotics such as those found in Kefir are another great example of a supplement that can contribute to a healthy microbiome.
In times of pain, yoga or light exercise can alleviate discomfort, and those who suffer from long-term gut sensitivity may want to see a doctor about receiving a prescription.
They may also want to avoid foods high in sugar and alcohol, and after drinking alcohol should consider eating a high-collagen, fibrous meal alongside taking a prebiotic or probiotic. Those who suffer from bodily pain, particularly back pain, or hormonal imbalances especially may be interested in exploring how their gut health might be impacting other aspects of their health.
With a heavy focus on how healthy eating makes us look, it is incredibly important that health officials transparently acknowledge the extent to which healthy eating improves our mental state. Even individuals who do not suffer from any complications should make a concerted effort to mind their gut with the knowledge that it impacts so many aspects of our lives.