If you’re part of the 20% of people in the UK affected by IBS you might already be aware of the gut-brain connection, and how an imbalance in one can really affect the other.
It’s well-known that emotions can be felt in the gut, paving the way for expressions like ‘sick to the stomach’, ‘butterflies in my tummy’ and ‘gut reaction’. The gut is described as a ‘second brain’ by Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia university, on the grounds that it is the only part of the body that can function on its own, ‘if you cut the vagus nerve – the major nerve connecting brain and gut, the gut would still function’. (1) Such is the power of the gut, that we should really be paying more attention to what we feed it, as gut health in turn can have a powerful affect on our overall health.
Ecological imbalances can wreak havoc with the guts, such as those caused by extensive use of antibiotics. I was first introduced to high strength probiotics during a period of relentless IBS, which came to a stop after regular use of probiotics. Other foods like Kefir, Live Yoghurt and Kombucha can also boost your good bacteria. Even adding a probiotic drink to your diet like Yakult will go some way to improving digestion, and consequently your immune response.
At a recent trends and insight event by The Food People I heard from the inspiring ‘Gut Health Doctor’, Dr Megan Rossi on the link between gut and brain. She discussed a number of studies around gut health – that better gut health is linked to a 47% reduction in colds, for example.
Other key takeaways included our need to:
Eat more fibre
– A high fibre diet feeds the microbes in your gut which help keep you healthy
– Every 8g fibre brings 19% reduced risk of heart disease, 15% reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, 8% reduced risk of colon cancer
– Wholegrain fibre is better for you and brings a greater risk reduction than overall fruit and veg, although these bring other benefits too
– We’re getting 40% less fibre than we should be
– Studies have shown that 50g fibre a day improves mental health(2)
Increase diet diversity
Increase your plant-based species intake in a day – so bring variety to your diet.
Greater biodiversity = greater nutritional benefits, so branch out
Megan also exposed truth in the age-old adage to ‘Chew Your Food!’; chewing avoids malabsorption and undigested food.
So there we have it. Your mum was right after all.
Stress is of course a major culprit when it comes to stomach complaints, so looking after your emotional and mental well-being is as important as your diet. This is where reflexology can help, by aiding relaxation and working holistically to restore your balance.
(1) AOR Reflexions Magazine, December 2018
Check Out: ‘Eat Yourself Healthy’ by Dr Megan Rossi
Try: Recipes for the gut https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/recipes