How to Optimize Your Gut Health for a Better-Functioning Brain, According to Experts

“Our gut is responsible for digestion and influences our immune system, metabolism, brain function, and even our mental well-being. Caring for our gut health is like nurturing a secret powerhouse within us.”

What your gut can do for you

Experts are learning more about the gut every day, and it’s now widely held that the gut is the place where the inside of your body meets the outside world. “A huge amount of our immune system is integrated into our intestines, and there is a large number of bacteria which live in our gut,” says Thomas, who explains that there is thought to be ten times the amount of bacteria in our gut than the number of cells in the entire rest of our bodies. “These bacteria have a role in the absorption of the necessary nutrients from our food, production of vitamins and hormones, and the overall function of our gut.”

“Good gut health can be linked to the health of many other parts of the body because 70% of the body’s immune cells lay along the digestive tract,” adds Dr. Paul Banwell, founder of the supplement brand ARTIS London. “Signs of an unhealthy gut include an upset stomach, feeling tired, trouble sleeping—as most of your body’s serotonin, which helps with sleep, is produced by the gut—food intolerance, food cravings, weight loss or gain, and skin irritation like acne or eczema.”

According to Parsad, upsetting this delicate ecosystem with things like too much alcohol, poor sleep or inactivity can contribute to a wide range of issues, including digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, obesity, heart disease, inflammation, impaired nutrient absorption, a weakened immune system and even certain types of cancer. “Additionally, recovering from illness and getting fit again can be challenging if our gut health is compromised, as nutrient absorption and energy production may be hindered.”

10’000 Hours

The link between the gut and the brain

Interestingly, research has shown a strong connection between the gut and the brain, known as the ‘gut-brain axis.’ This connection works both ways, “allowing the brain to influence intestinal activities, including the activity of functional immune effector cells, and the gut to influence mood, cognition, and mental health.” There’s a vast amount of evidence that enteric microbiota (the microorganisms dotted around your intestines) have a significant effect on this gut-brain relationship, with the paper’s authors concluding that, unsurprisingly, “diet has also been shown to influence the gut microbiome’s impact on cognitive function.”

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