Have you ever felt sick to your stomach, had butterflies from excitement or an unexplainable gut feeling that some people call intuition? You have your second brain to thank for that. We take a look at the gut and explain how to enhance its superpowers. If you would like a belly full of protective brainpower, then kindly read on.
Your gut refers to your gastrointestinal tract which comprises your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine. On average, the gut is about nine metres long and is lined with its very own nervous system. Called the Enteric Nervous System, it closely matches the Central Nervous System. Your two brains communicate directly with one another physically along neurones and nerve cells, and with chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters via what is called the gut-brain axis.
The way in which your two brains communicate on the gut-brain axis affects the health of your gut’s microbiome. You have about 100 trillion microorganisms, mainly bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and yeasts, living inside your gut at any given time called your microbiota. It weighs about the same as your first brain.
Your gut’s microbiome refers to the micro-environment, and conditions that help or hinder the health of your microbiota. A healthy gut microbiome means a healthy microbiota. Conversely, the health of your microbiome and microbiota has a direct effect on the proper functioning of your gut-brain axis, and the functioning of your first brain, and therefore your entire body. The link between the health of your gut, your brain and your overall wellbeing is undeniable because of this.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that your gut was only responsible for the digestion of your food and the elimination of waste. A healthy gut with a diverse microbiota, a well-balanced microbiome, and a proliferation of good bacteria, equates to improved physical, mental, and emotional health. And a healthy gut equips you with a set of superpowers that protects you from, and combats a host of other conditions, diseases and syndromes not traditionally associated with the gut. Let’s examine four of these.
Superpower 1: Your gut fortifies the immune function
About 70% of your immunity originates in your gut. Not all bacteria are bad. In fact, some bacteria are vital to a strong immune system. They not only ward off and keep dangerous pathogens at bay, but they also actually create a barrier between the harmful invaders and the gut wall to prevent them from entering your body. Certain types of bacteria in the microbiota also stimulate the creation of CD4+ T cells which play a vital role in how your immune system responds to infection.
Superpower 2: Your gut regulates inflammation
A healthy gut manages inflammation. This can prevent and help manage a host of modern maladies and conditions such as allergies, and even how you experience pain.
By managing inflammation, which is another of your gut’s immune responses, the likelihood of you acquiring any number of inflammatory bowel diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s Disease drops sharply. It also helps to manage and alleviate associated symptoms.
A healthy gut microbiota and appropriately regulated inflammatory response, may also drastically reduce the chances of getting certain types of cancers.
Superpower 3: Your gut helps manage emotions and moods
Many of your hormones and neurotransmitters are produced, processed, and absorbed in the gut. Chief among them is Serotonin (the long-term feel-good hormone), and Cortisol (often referred to as the stress hormone). But did you know that your gut also produces a large percentage of your body’s natural opiates or painkillers?
Your gut microbiome and your second brain affect your emotions, regulate your moods, and help to manage anxiety.
Irritation in the gut is proven to trigger mood changes. One study shows that between 50-90% of people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome also have a psychiatric disorder.
Research shows links between the gastrointestinal tract health, and the onset of psychiatric disorders such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Autism as well as certain neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Chronic Pain.
Superpower 4: Improved mental health, focus, cognition, and memory
Your second brain regulates how many nutrients you absorb from the food you eat, and helps you to remain hydrated. It works tirelessly with other digestive organs such as the kidneys to eliminate waste and toxins too.
Your gut also plays a major role in your circadian rhythm. This is a fancy way of saying your sleep and wake cycle. This cycle is regulated by the sleep hormone Melatonin. To produce it, you need Serotonin. About 95% of all your Serotonin is produced, processed, and synthesised in your gut.
When we couple this with the information about how the gut affects our moods, it should come as no surprise that the gut influences your cognition, ability to focus, mental clarity, overall thinking ability, and memory.
Your second brain, your microbiota and your healthy gut equip you with so many more superpowers. From regulating your weight, and preventing you from getting diabetes, to keeping your heart safe from a heart attack – the list goes on.
We are masking our gut’s superpowers
A healthy mind and body start with a healthy gut. We are dumbing down the natural intelligence of our second brains, creating an imbalance in our gut’s microbiome, and masking its protective superpowers. The strain of modern living has created a burden on our bodies, and in our guts.
The harsh reality of healthcare is that digestive complaints and disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome are skyrocketing. As many as 40% of women and 20% of men between the ages of 25 and 65 years old are reported to suffer from gastrointestinal issues and symptoms associated with IBS.
Nutrient-poor and calorie-rich convenience foods laden with refined sugars and carbohydrates, the overprescription of antibiotics and other medications, an increase in the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, pollution, our obsession with antibacterial products, and stressful often sedentary days with not enough hours to exercise properly are just some of the factors contributing to dysbiosis. When this happens, there is disharmony in the microbiome. We experience uncomfortable and sometimes painful digestive issues. The second brain can’t function optimally, and the gut-brain axis is thrown off kilter. In the long term, other issues such as Leaky Gut may develop.
Top tip: Leaky Gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability (IP), is another digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins can ‘leak’ through the intestinal wall which can cause havoc with your immune system and possibly contribute to several health conditions. This podcast unpacks the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments of Leaky Gut.
Did you know?
- One in every three prescriptions for antibiotics is not needed. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although antibiotics play an important role to our health and safety, their misuse and overprescription is creating microbial resistance and superbugs. This affects how the microbiota functions in your gut.
- The prescriptions for antidepressants have increased by 35% in six years and is at the highest it has ever been. Mental illness, including depression and anxiety, is now considered to be one of the top ten health concerns globally.
- Prescriptions for pharmaceuticals, such as Ritalin and Adderall, aimed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, doubled in a decade, and tripled in 2021 in Australia alone. Prescriptions for adults now outnumber those for children.
- The diagnosis and incidence of colorectal cancer which includes colon and rectal cancer is increasing in adults younger than 50. The highest incidence of this types of cancer is among the 20 to 39 years age bracket.
- More people have allergies and asthma than ever before. Food allergies are particularly rampant with prevalence increasing to approximately 50%. It is now believed that one in every 13 children suffer from food allergies. Some experts attribute this to the health of the gut microbiota.
- People born after 1975 are starting to show a decline in IQ. According to the research this equates to seven points between generations, and a drop of around 0.2 points a year. Experts are suggesting that a decline in nutritional standards is a major contributing factor.
How to enhance your gut’s superpowers
If you’ve recently come off a course of antibiotics, been burning the candle at both ends, simply been living hard and fast, or feel that you are at the constant mercy at the likes of IBS with the following symptoms, it might be time to bolster your gut’s superpowers:
- Bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, or urgency.
- Lacking energy, unexplained fatigue, and disruptions to your sleep patterns.
- Overwhelming moments of sadness and/or depression, anxiety, and/or unstable moods.
- Battling to concentrate and/or focus, brain fog and/or mental malaise.
The first step to enhancing your gut’s superpowers is to ensure that you create a healthy microbiome. A balanced microbiome will ensure the health of your microbiota.
Supplement with a prebiotic such as A.Vogel Molkosan
A prebiotic such as A.Vogel Molkosan is a food source and tonic with specific nutrients to help the growth and development of good bacteria and yeasts in the microbiota.
A.Vogel Molkosan creates a hospitable environment for these healthy bacteria to flourish. It regulates the acidity of the gut too, and protects the integrity of the existing microbiota. More than that, it stops bad bacteria and yeasts from attaching to the second brain and your gut wall so that they can be flushed out of your system.
Not all prebiotics are equal. Look for a prebiotic that is naturally high in L+ lactic acid such as Molkosan. When this is broken down in the gut, it produces a short chain fatty acid called butyrate which is food for the protective barrier cells of your gut.
Butyrate has also been shown to protect the colon by lowering inflammation which in turn may assist in the management of the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease. It may also lower the risk of certain cancers.
Now that the foundation has been created and you’ve created a healthy precursor and environment, it may be worth introducing probiotics. Probiotics are live beneficial microorganisms, mostly bacteria and yeasts, that create diversity in the microbiota and restore harmony to the microbiome.
Natural yoghurts including amasi (maas), amahewu, fermented and pickled vegetables and kombucha are naturally rich in probiotics, lactic acid and butyrate.
Address your life holistically and that starts with your diet. A balanced and diverse natural diet filled with whole, unprocessed foods and fibre including fresh fruit and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds is worth its weight in gold. Combine that with moderate exercise and enough water, and you’re halfway there.
Manage your stress levels
Look at proactive ways in which you can manage your stress and anxiety levels. These have been shown to have a direct correlation to your gut health and its superpowers.
For those difficult-to-manage times while you’re finding your balance, consider looking into the benefits of the A.Vogel Neuroforce Formula, Nerve Tonic drops. A homeopathic tonic formulated to help treat the symptoms associated with anxiety, stress, and mental fatigue. It helps to restore balance to the nervous system the natural way.
Top tip: Burnout? Adrenal fatigue? Adrenal insufficiency? Are they the same thing? Our team unpacks this and discusses burnout and adrenal fatigue in depth, unpacking the various symptoms and multiple causes. We also give you a solution – a holistic approach to treat adrenal fatigue and burnout including diet, lifestyle changes and natural medicines, especially adaptogens which help the body cope with stress. Listen to the podcast here.
- The brain-gut connection (2021) The Brain-Gut Connection | Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection
- 08 July 2022 By Corrinne Burns (2022) Antidepressant prescribing increases by 35% in six years, The Pharmaceutical Journal. Available at: https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/antidepressant-prescribing-increases-by-35-in-six-years
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- Measuring outpatient antibiotic prescribing (2022) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/data/outpatient-prescribing/index.html
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- Ward, M. (2022) Prescriptions for ADHD medication double in a decade, The Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/prescriptions-for-adhd-medication-double-in-a-decade-20220922-p5bk61.html
- Staff, S.A. (2021) IQ test scores are getting higher, but are humans actually getting smarter?, ScienceAlert. Available at: https://www.sciencealert.com/iq-test-scores-are-getting-higher-but-are-humans-actually-getting-smarter