Our gut is also called the second brain. It is connected to so many functions in the body and connected directly to the brain via the gut-brain access via the Vagus nerve. Hence the name.
To give you an idea of just how involved your gut is in your health --> did you know that:
We all have different microbiome makeups because of our unique life exposures. How you were born (vaginal or c-section), the antibiotics you have taken throughout your life, and the diet you have consumed are just a few of the ways that have contributed to the makeup of your gut microbiome today.
Now before I dive into my holistic tips for helping the foundation of your gut health I want to preface with this. There are lots of variables to consider. I preach bio-individuality, which means, that what works for you might not work for someone else. And your gut health might need to have a deeper dive through testing and working with a practitioner to diagnose specifically what's going on in your body. I'm going to share some of the tools that you can do at home on your own to improve your gut health.
1. Prebiotics aka food for feeding your gut bacteria
We all have trillions of different kinds of bacteria that live in our gut. And just like we need to eat, our bacteria need to eat too. The undigestible fiber in foods we eat is what feeds the gut bacteria (our probiotics). So what we eat, is important to note and consider for feeding the gut. Great sources of prebiotics include :
Bananas (on the greener side)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Incorporating more prebiotics into your diet can help support healthy digestion and a variety of bacteria in the gut. Variety is important not only to keep you interested in the food but also to ensure you get a variety of different kinds of food for your gut. Try to change things up!
2. Probiotics aka live bacteria to add to your gut microbiome
Probiotics are like new plants you are adding to a garden (aka your gut). So by taking probiotics or eating probiotic-rich food, you are adding good bacteria into the gut microbiome. They support intestinal function, digestive function, and your overall gut health. Some sources of probiotics include fermented foods like:
Yogurt (with active or live cultures)
Kombucha (just be mindful of the sugars)
There are many different supplements for both probiotics and prebiotics. & some are going to work better for you than others. The one I love and recommend to clients is Seed (which is actually both a pre & probiotic, what they call a Synbiotic). There are many brands out there that the bacteria often gets killed off on its way through the digestional track by stomach acid without proper protection (what mother nature has already perfected with food)!
Seed is scientifically backed to protect the bacteria from stomach acid to ensure you actually benefit from the prebiotics and probiotics. You can use code JVINCK for 15% off your first month's supply of Seed's DS-01™ Daily Synbiotic.
So what do Probiotics & Prebiotics have to do with the brain? Let's refer back to that direct connection from your second brain to the brain in your head, the gut-brain access. They communicate. There are findings that support that the gut microbiome can signal upward on the vagus nerve to the brain making it involved with responses like stress or other emotions. With serotonin creation mostly in the gut, if the bacteria balance is off, so can your serotonin levels. This can lead to what feels like depression or anxiety, which is often thought to originate in the brain but might be tied to gut health too! And it works the opposite way too. When we start to experience perceived stress, it signals the body into fight or flight which in turn diverts attention from digestion, slowing the emptying of the stomach, leading to discomfort for some!
3.Prioritizing whole foods
When we eat foods closer to their whole food form, they are often going to be more nutrient dense but also have fewer additives that may irritate your gut. Fast foods and ultra-processed foods often have more industrialized oils and sugars in them that can be irritating and inflammatory to the gut. This can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut.
With 70% of the immune system living in the gut, this can cause your body to focus on healing the inflammation instead of fighting off the infections. This isn't to say you can't have fast food or any processed foods (because it's all on a scale really!) BUT by prioritizing more whole foods, you support your immune system and your gut bacteria.
4. Incorporating natural remedies
I noted above that medicines can impact your gut microbiome. But isn't medicine supposed to help us get healthier? Yes, and the way it does that is by killing all the bacteria. Beneficial and nonbeneficial bacteria.
And we want to keep the beneficial bacteria instead of wiping them out every time we feel we need to take a Tylenol for a headache or cramps. Instead of reaching straight for the medicine cabinet, using some of the natural remedies can help support your gut health AND relieve your issue. Sometimes its a lifestyle change like reaching for more water or electrolytes when you have a headache. Incorporating warm beverages like a Golden Latte (with Tumeric which is. a great natural anti-inflammatory agent) can act as a natural way to reduce inflammation for stomach pains or digestive discomfort.
Even when you are looking for a quick supplement/pill that you can take there are natural options incorporating these elements. A few brands like Thorne and Hilma utilize botanicals and natural ingredients that support your immune system instead of killing it all off.
I love Hilma's natural allergy medicine and respiratory support for the times of the year my allergies go nuts!
It all comes back to bio-individuality. You have to find what works for you. These are som simple places to get started but know that only you know what works best for you.