The Gut-Brain Connection
A few days ago, my daughter suffered from some abdominal problems. She had lots of gas and poor appetite. She told me, it was funny, because “when my stomach is unwell, my head feels dizzy too” I told her that it is not a co-incidence, as our gut health is related to our ‘brain health’.
There is a connection between our gut and brain. The gut is known as the second brain. Dr. Michael Gershon, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, in his book, ‘The Second Brain’, wrote that the entire gastrointestinal system is the body’s second nervous system. “The brain is not the only place in the body that’s full of neurotransmitters,” says Dr. Gershon. “A hundred million neurotransmitters line the length of the gut, approximately the same number that is found in the brain… ” If we add the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach and large intestine, there are more nerve cells in the gut than there are in the entire remainder of the peripheral nervous system. Nearly every chemical that controls the brain in the head has been identified in the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters.
Therefore, you can well imagine how important it is for us to keep a healthy bowel system. Many Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients are constipated. Most of the time, we only think of such conditions as primarily affecting the brain or central nervous system but we must start paying attention to the gut.
Importance of Good Bacteria
The importance of pro-biotics has been well researched. Our microflora (a composition of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms) make up 90% of the genetic material of our body. Around 100 trillion of beneficial bacterial cells populate our intestines and other parts of the digestive system.
The composition of this microflora has a profound impact on your health. Among others, it is discovered that our intestinal bacteria influence our:
· Genetic expression
· Immune system
· Brain development, mental health, and memory
· Weight, and
· Risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer
Our gut bacteria are extremely sensitive to antibiotics, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap, agricultural chemicals and pollution. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for us to keep a healthy microflora in our gut. According to Dr Mercola, the ideal balance in our body is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad.
Probiotics in pill forms contains billions of good bacteria. However, in fermented foods, they number in the trillions per serving. Therefore, one serving of fermented foods equals one bottle of pro-biotic. In many different cultures, all sorts of foods have been fermented, ranging from dairy, grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish. Everything can be fermented, and there were fermented beverages in every culture. Kefir, milk and water, is one such fermented beverage.
Besides having a much greater colony forming units (CFU/ml) count, fermented foods are easily digestible and thus the nutrients of the food is absorbed much more by our body. Not to mention, it is much cheaper too. Among the easiest to make is kefir, be it milk or water kefir and kefir is rated among the top 10 superfoods in the world by many health practitioners. Milk kefir is made by placing the mother culture, known popularly as kefir grains, into a glass jar of milk for about 24 hours and it’s done. It can’t get any simpler!