Wow! Two unrelated events aligned some very interesting facts together for me on gut health in the last few days. Honestly, it’s not something I’ve ever been concerned with, but that’s due to sheer ignorance of it’s importance. I didn’t know we have this multitude of happy, helpful little bacteria that live in our stomachs that help us be healthy. I also didn’t know we get rid of them on a regular basis through our digestive process, and have to actively replace them! In my 30 Day Transformation Arbonne released a new product called Digestion Plus with digestive enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics so I needed to check out some information on that. I read the Arbonne material and then, as always, I went to the internet for more. And when I was visiting with my local essential oil representative to learn more about uses of essential oils she mentioned one of their oils called Digize that aids in digestion and would be of benefit to my youngest daughter with Down Syndrome. This high-grade essential oil could be dropped on the tongue after a meal to provide probiotics. There was that word again. She said that would help her brain function. What? I had so much more to research.
I continue to be fascinated, in the small amount of research that I do, with what I’m learning about proper diet affecting so many areas of the body. We often treat disease with remedies to ease the symptoms, rather than stopping the behavior that causes the problems in the first place. Why does ‘healthy gut flora’ even matter with all the others things we ‘need’ to do to be healthy; eat organic, exercise, sleep, reduce sugar. Well, how about this one? The health of your gut directly relates to the health of your brain! I read a few articles that discussed this connection including this Healthy Gut, Healthy Brain article by the #1 selling author, Dr. David Perlmutter. The idea of having a ‘gut feeling’ about something, or ‘trusting your gut’ actually has some factual research behind it. There is brain-like activity in your stomach that relays information to your real brain. At the extreme end leaky gut (when the intestinal wall breaks down and undigested food particles enter the bloodstream) sends toxic compounds which penetrate the protective blood-brain barrier, resulting in compromises including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. IBS is also showing a direct relation to depression and anxiety from lack of seratonin that controls the ‘happiness’ centre of the brain. More seratonin is produced in the ‘brain’ of the stomach than in our big brain. Depression can cause digestive issues, but there is now proof that IBS is more likely to cause depression. And at the very least brain clarity and mental function are related to the food we eat and our digestion. Signals are sent to the brain from the stomach. Just consider the sleepy fog you are in after a heavy meal like Thanksgiving dinner. The brain is being fed directly by the stomach.
A healthy gut also has digestive enzymes that help break down food for nutrient absorption, boost our immune system (80% of our immune system resides in our gut), and produce vitamins for the body. Prebiotics are an important step. They are food particles that don’t digest, causing the gut to make healthy bacteria. Prebiotics can come in the form of fermented foods, for example. We lose this living bacteria daily through our normal digestive process, so it’s important to replace it. This bacteria is alive so it also needs to be fed. Many types of ‘food’ for this bacteria can be killed off my stomach acid so feeding the bacteria can be difficult. Bacillus coagulans is a great enzyme to take in supplement form because it doesn’t activate until it reaches the intestine, so it doesn’t expire as quickly as other probiotics in pill storage, and it passes through the stomach acid before it activates, with no loss of effectiveness.
Ugh! Enough science talk. But I am fascinated with this new information, and ate some dill pickles today just so I knew I had some fermented food to make my gut happy! And I have more research to do for my daughter. I’ve read some interesting things about alkaline water related to brain function, too. It’s a good thing dill pickles are one of her favourite foods!
Eating beans as one of my main sources of protein I am well aware of the difficulties in digestion. Beans are recommended to be eaten with a starch, like rice to aid in digestion. This stomach bacteria acts like the rice, as a helper, with all foods. I’ll offer this side note on beans. Many people are afraid of eating them. Beans have a protective outer layer that makes absorption of nutrients difficult, and causes gas and bloating. Washing and rinsing well before cooking helps, and you do develop a tolerance when you eat them regularly. You can also sprout the beans. Sprouting removes that protective coating, provides maximum nutrients and enzymes, and makes the beans taste so fresh! I got my own sprouter from Cathy’s Sprouters. I can sprout beans in 24 hours and throw them in a salad, a stir fry, or eat them by the handful for a high protein, easily digestible snack. This plant-based eating journey is more and more fun all the time! Now I’m adding the new Digestion Plus into my supplements and am eager to make my tummy bacteria happy.