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Gut wealth: how our digestion is linked to our brain.

The WHO (world health organization) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I think we can all agree that it is merely impossible to achieve a COMPLETE state of well-being in all those categories, especially when we have so many different definitions as to what feels healthy for our bodies.

For a few years I struggled with digestion issues and couldn’t figure out the source of my twisting stomach aches that often left me in so much pain that I could barely even move. I have to admit that the food I ate wasn’t the only reason behind my digestion issues. I later found that I had been dealing with anxiety for the past couple of years and didn’t even know it! Anxiety is a type of fear that is not real.

It is treatable with medication that block serotonin re-uptake. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that carries signals resulting in our (positive) mood. These medications are often prescribed for anxiety and also depression. Research supports that higher levels of serotonin promote a more positive mood and can even help you live longer! However, 90% of the serotonin in our body is produced in the gut and aids with our gut motility. These neurotransmitters also communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve (longest nerve in the body). When our gut plays such an important part in sending these signals to our brain, our diet and digestion play a very important role in this process.

Our gut contains certain types of bacteria that require a specific environment to live and perform their digestive functions. The food we eat and our diet affect the living environment of these bacteria and can interfere with their regular function. I felt that the bacteria in my gut had lost their ability to function normally, which is why I started taking probiotics.

Probiotics are often found in a pill form (or sometimes in foods such as kombucha and yogurt) and taken as supplements that can help restore the healthy functions of our gut bacteria and aid with our digestion and overall gut health. However, recently after attending Expo West I learned about pre-biotics! Pre-biotics are what the probiotic bacteria feed on; therefore the two can work as a team to aid our digestion.

I have been taking probiotics for over a year now and am still experimenting with different brands to find one that works best for me. However, I have definitely noticed a difference in my digestion and gut health as a result of a cleaner diet and taking probiotics daily. When I skip a day or two of taking my probiotics, I definitely notice a difference in how my gut feels. I recently began incorporating pre-biotics into my daily diet and will need to update you guys within a few weeks once I see how they work for me and my body.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about natural ways to increase the serotonin in our body WITHOUT using drugs. As I discussed in a previous post, I chose to stop taking anxiety medications and focused on treating my anxiety in more natural ways, such as through a cleaner diet and by practicing yoga daily. I also recently learned about natural ways to increase the serotonin in my body without taking medication.

Here is what my research results showed about natural ways we can all do this: exercise, meditation, increase bright sunlight exposure, and DIET! I want to add another one myself that I know has definitely worked for me and that is to listen to pump up, or up beat, music (my most recent favourite is definitely Shape of You by Ed Sheeran), sing along, and even dance! I am still a work in progress and will continue to do research every day and will be updating you guys about what has and has not been working for me.

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