If you all know me, you know how much I love food. I want to talk more about our digestive system in this post. This is such a personal topic for several reasons…
I struggled with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome and my dad has recently been cleared of having Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
There were times when my stomach would hurt for days. I could barely find relief while constipation, diarrhea and nausea were my close and intimate friends. I was struggling with my thyroid disease and this introduced a new problem and obstacle that I needed to understand…
Microbes…it’s not a scary term
There are trillions of microbes that live in our digestive system. These microbes help us digest foods, make vitamins, and protect us from intruders. However, they also have mood-boosting and stress-busting functions.
The microbes that live in our guts are known as our “gut microbiota”. The microbes that we can ingest are known as “probiotics”. I know…buzzword…
Probiotics are live organisms that you can eat, drink, or take as a supplement. I talked about this on my podcast, the Thyroid Warrior Podcast. There are also probiotics that have mental health benefits and are called “psychobiotics,” (psycho = mental health, and biotics = live). They are live organisms that can benefit our psyche: hello Serotonin.
Where do we find probiotics?
Probiotics can be found in yogurt, sauerkraut (and other fermented veggies), miso, tempeh, and kimchi. You can drink them in kefir or kombucha. Be sure to choose unpasteurized ones that will be refrigerated in your local grocer. Additionally, it’s important that you also understand your digestive system…many of us don’t need to actually supplement, so it’s important that you work with your doctor to recognize your unique microbiome.
Is there a real connection between your brain and your gut??
It may not seem obvious or intuitive, but your body is connected in so many ways and more research coming about that supports the idea of “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” It is the connection between your gut, its microbes, and your brain (Dinan, 2017).
Several studies showed that stressed animals not only have increased stress hormones and stressed behaviors; but they also had different gut microbes! This has also been studied, on a small scale in people as well. One study showed that mothers with high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy had infants with more of the “bad” gut microbes.
The question I had was can changing our gut microbes affect our moods and stress responses?
Yes…yes it can.
“Gut microbiota and probiotics alter behavior and brain neurochemistry” (Ait-Belgnaoui, et. al., 2012).
Many animal studies show positive effects on behavior when they are given probiotic supplements. For example, after a probiotic, stressed rats had lower levels of both stress hormones and an inflammatory molecule associated with depression. Human studies show that after a few weeks of taking probiotic foods or supplements, healthy people have reduced stress hormones, feelings of stress, negative thoughts, and sad moods.
How do we help our digestive systems to make this shift?
PREbiotics. Prebiotics are food for our gut microbes and, when fermented in the digestive system, produce specific changes in bacterial composition or activity. They are your friendly gut microbes’ favorite foods so they’ll happily grow, and multiply. Prebiotics are basically foods that contain fiber:
- Whole grains
From a personal perspective, once I started introducing more fiber rich foods, things started to change. I am happier, my poops are better and I feel better overall. I know that many people don’t like the idea of talking about things like poop, but it saved my dad’s life, so I will never stop talking about it…
By the way, here are a few other resources for you:
Thyroid Warrior Podcast
Now We Rebuild-Let’s Talk About Fiber Fueled
Taste the Rainbow
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