Science is beginning to understand the incredible inner workings and relationships between your digestive tract and your brain. Your digestive tract contains many nerve cells. In fact, the nervous system within your digestive tract, known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), is often referred to as “the second brain.” The ENS consists of more than 100 million nerve cells, about as many nerve cells as in your spinal cord, and is responsible for governing the function of the digestive tract. Communication between the ENS and your brain is a two-way street. Just like anxiety can give you “butterflies” in your stomach, digestive abnormalities can have surprising influences on your brain.
An exciting new area of medical research involves the study of the microbiome, the community of trillions of bacteria that reside in your gut. Changes to the types of bacteria in the microbiome can cause digestive problems and inflammatory conditions. More recently, these bacterial imbalances have also been shown to affect brain function and mental health. In this program you will learn what steps you can take to restore a healthy microbiome to regulate normal digestion, balance your mood, and help improve your mental health.
Your digestive tract contains about 100 trillion bacteria. By comparison, the entire human body consists of only about 40 trillion cells. There are over 400 different species of gut bacteria in the microbiome, serving a wide range of functions important to your health. Gut bacteria produce vitamins and other nutrients you need. They play a key role in the development of your immune system, regulate stress hormones, and they manufacture hundreds of neurochemicals that your brain uses; this includes the production of about 95 percent of your body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both your mood and bowel activity.
A diet high in sugar and fat and low in fibrous plant foods can alter your microbiome, leading to a condition called “dysbiosis.” This type of diet selectively feeds the potentially harmful bacteria in your gut while starving the beneficial bacteria causing an overgrowth of the “bad” bacteria. If left unchecked, these “bad” bacteria can spread upwards from the colon into your small intestine where they do not belong. This can compromise the integrity of your gut wall allowing bacteria and other toxic chemicals to enter your bloodstream, a condition called “leaky gut.” Dysbiosis can cause bowel dysfunction, chronic fatigue, immune problems, and changes in your mood and behavior.
In order to heal your mind you need to first heal your gut, and to heal your gut you need to change how you eat.