The body is made up of a variety of systems that are inter-connected, so it’s no surprise that when one system is off balance it can trigger a domino effect, potentially creating a surge of severe health complications. A perfect example of this is the relationship between digestion and the mind. The digestive system houses immunity, fights off harmful invaders, maintains overall health and is home to the largest concentration of mood-altering neurotransmitters. None of which would be possible without good bacteria in the gut.
One strain of good bacteria is probiotics. Probiotics provide live strains of friendly bacteria that assist in digestion, the manufacturing of vitamins and protection from the overgrowth of disease-causing organisms. How does this connect to the mind? Pre-clinical studies have shown that higher levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut can reduce anxiety, depression and neurotic behavior and even combat the effects of stress. Why? The gastrointestinal system is the most abundant source of regulatory neurotransmitters and neuro-peptides outside the brain. An example of this is the fact that serotonin, one of the brain’s chemicals that influences mood, actually has its highest concentrations in the gut. In other words, it’s as if we have 2 brains – 1 in our head, 1 in our stomach. Treat that stomach right and you will not only improve digestion, you will improve mood. Here are 10 tips to get you started:
- Take probiotics and prebiotics: These are two of the most important supplements you can take to help restore healthy digestion. *Prebiotics ensure that good bacteria is provided with a nourishing environment in which the probiotics can thrive.
- Test for food allergies and sensitivities with your doctor. You might have an unknown gluten or dairy intolerance that is causing chaos in your digestive system.
- Include fiber in your diet from fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, include fermented foods, yogurt or dairy with live cultures, and stay away from processed foods, commercial meats, and trans-fats.
- If possible, avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Include meditation and exercise in your routine as a way to combat stress. Stress can wreak havoc on the digestive system.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol, which can damage good bacteria in the gut.
- Eat plenty of ginger. It improves digestion, reduces inflammation, purifies the gastrointestinal tract, increases antioxidant levels and boosts immunity.
- Take an Omega-3 supplement. Whether from fish or flax, these essential fatty acids reduce inflammation, heal the gastrointestinal tract lining, improve nutrient absorption, balance hormones, improve neurological function and boost immunity.
- Consider a digestive enzyme: Chewable papaya ones taste great, increase digestive capacity and help with nutrient absorption.