How Our Microbiome Affects Our Brain In Profound Ways!

Looking back at the 11 years since I first learned- after two weeks in the hospital- that I had an episode of an autoimmune digestive disorder- I was in a wild way blessed.  My only healing option was one I found myself- a diet called SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) packed with fruit and vegetables and nuts and unprocessed foods and a mandate to have incredible amounts of probiotics every day.  The result: my moods, my mind, my body and my whole life was elevated as my body healed.

Because it’s a diet for life, not just for a moment, it’s been a revolution.

I never understood why my mind shifted to such clarity and my moods became so light… until I learned how our gut actually directly affects our brain. 

“A healthy gut should contain a proportion of approximately 85% “good” or “friendly” bacteria to 15% “bad” bacteria.”~ Deana Alban, Be Brain Fit

The University of California Los Angeles’ Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress found that when we eat foods rich in probiotics, we can enhance the functioning of our brain.

Yes, your brain may even work better when you have a stronger digestive system and flourishing microbiome.

This was discovered by taking 36 woman of ages ranging from 18 to 55 and separating them into 3 groups; one group ate yogurt containing various probiotics, two times a day for four weeks, the second group consumed something that tasted similar to yogurt, but did not contain any probiotics, and the third group was just monitored and wasn’t asked to ingest anything specific. Using magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), that measure brain activity, researchers tested scans before and after the 4 week period by administering an emotion-recognition task where subjects viewed images of people with different emotional facial expressions such as anger, fear and then had to match them to faces they felt were of a similar emotional expression.

The study from UCLA found:

“During the resting brain scan, the women consuming probiotics showed greater connectivity between a key brainstem region known as the periaqueductal grey and cognition-associated areas of the prefrontal cortex. The women who ate no product at all, on the other hand, showed greater connectivity of the periaqueductal grey to emotion- and sensation-related regions, while the group consuming the non-probiotic dairy product showed results in between. “ In essence, the consumption of probiotics yielded decreased function in the areas of the brain which vastly control emotion and anxiety.

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,…Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

The term “gut dysbiosis” refers to when the intestines and gut bacteria are in a diseased state. The gut and brain are connected, and the bacteria can produce substances that can influence the brain.

When there is too much of the unfavorable bacteria in your gut, your body will produce a toxic byproduct of the bacteria know as lipopolysaccharides. This can have many unfavorable effects on your brain such as lowering the amount of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin (known to be responsible for our happiness), damage to our memory since they negatively affect the hippocampus, increased cortisol levels (which is our stress hormone) and cause inflammation known to be correlated with depression.  (You can learn more HERE)

Some symptoms of dysbiosis are fatigue, poor memory, anxiety and depression, mood swings, palpitations, gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation and psoriasis.

HERE is so much about gut dysbiosis and how to set it straight:

Eating more fruit and veggies help a whole lot. As suggested above, something as simple as eating beans every day could do wonders for your microbiome.

Probiotic-rich foods in addition to lots of fruits, veggies and fiber are considered the gold standard in creating a diverse community of gut health.

Yogurt: Dr. Edward Group, founder of the Global Healing Center believes that live cultured yogurt is one of the best probiotic foods especially when homemade from goat’s milk.  This is because, ”Goat milk yogurt is particularly high in probiotics like thermophillus, bifudus, and bulgaricus, and can be infused with extra forms of probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus.”

Kefir: Kefir is a fermented drinkable dairy product typically made from goat’s mild and fermented kefir grains. It’s not only high in the good bacteria lactobacilli and bifidus, but antioxidants as well. 

Pickles: Cucumbers placed in a brine of salt and water, begin to ferment over time using their own lactic acid bacteria. They are great in aiding the health of the digestive tract and are a good source of vitamin K. Note: pickles that contain vinegar do not carry the same probiotic effect.

Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by it’s own lactic acid bacteria and therefore rich in probiotics. It is also high in fiber, vitamin C, B and K.

Kimchi: This is a traditional fermented Korean food that is comprised of cruciferous vegetables. Examples of these types of vegetables are cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, and collard greens. Kimchi also contains garlic, ginger and red pepper powder.

The Journal of Medicinal Food reports: “Health functionality of kimchi, based upon our research and that of other, includes anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion. In this review we describe the method of kimchi manufacture, fermentation, health functionalities of kimchi and the probiotic properties of its LAB (lactic acid bacteria).”

All of this is to say: we really are- and feel, and think-  what we eat.

Let’s do all we can to fill up on greens and fiber, fruits and probiotics to feel our whole life!

xoxo Dana

(note as always : if you have special health concerns, always check first with your doctor before starting any new regimeor making big diet changes. xoxo!!!)

 

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