Our second brain and it’s food!
The mind and the gut have an immortal connect, an implicit bearing on each other’s working. This is common knowledge today. And how important it is to feed your gut right cannot be stressed enough. There is a whooping complex mesh of 500 million neurons running across the digestive system and this is called the enteric nervous system (ENS) and more interestingly, the second brain!
The ENS is embedded in our gastrointestinal tract beginning at the oesophagus and stretching all the way to anus, the most fascinating aspect is that this second wonder brain functions independently of our actual brain, spine and the neurons associated with it!
The influence of the brain on the gut is ceremonious but the gastrointestinal tract is as capable of sending messages to the king brain as does the brain to the rest of the body. Like your brain the ENS is not capable of rationale, sorting out relationships and euphoria but it controls all aspects of digestion, nutrient absorption and excretion autonomously.
There is therefore an indestructible relationship between the health of the gut and working of the brain. When acidity strikes, the head hurts and when you are most stressed, the toilet becomes your favourite spot. The nervousness before a big presentation finds it’s base in the rumbling of the tummy and when your digestion is not right, your focus is a belittled quality. There are more than enough symptoms that precipitate in our daily lives that stand proof to a strong 2 way signalling pathway between the brain and the gut. Any compromise with the digestive system pierces negative effects on the brain, needless to say the vice versa holds more than true!
This is where our gut microbiome or the bacteria that crowd our intestines play a prudent role in the way the gut functions and finally the way we feel in terms of our focus, happiness quotient and mental well-being.
We are born with a gift, trillions of bacteria in our gut that play in complete harmony tunes that produce 95% of the happy neurotransmitter serotonin, peak nutrient absorption and strike a chord with maintaining the delicate alkaline environment in the intestines.
Hence, it’s very important that we keep these little babies happy (our very own gut bacteria). It’s important that we feed them and help them grow. It’s important that we help the good bacteria grow sufficiently enough to crowd out the bad guys (the bad bacteria!).
Towards this, we need to take a few simple steps:
1. Most important is to include a host of fermented foods to the daily routine and there are plenty of these, easily and the best fermented at home. No practice could be better than this, from vegetables to beet kvass to kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented salsa, yoghurt, fermented fruits and many more!
2. Using organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible, the pesticides and chemical stemming from inorganic farming can breathe the life out of good gut bacteria in an eye blink.
3. Minimizing the use of hand sanitisers that ironically can kill good bacteria while it eliminates the so called germs too!
4. Avoiding processed foods, white sugars, processed flours and solvent treated oils.
5. Reducing the use of medicines to only when absolutely essential.
6. Sleeping peacefully every night for at least 7 hours.
7. Stressing less or at least regulating stress better through meditation and yoga.
8. A healthy mind and a healthy body need a healthy gut and a digestion that works like a well-oiled machine. This requires just a little thought and a little planning to ensure your back-end/kitchen is probiotic friendly and shuts the door to processed foods. But this demands a change in your lifestyle. Are you ready for that change?
Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach based in Mumbai and Bangalore offering sustainable nutritional plans with 3 chEATs per week. To book an appointment call 9902060225 or follow her on Instagram @iamanupamamenon