Go With Your Gut: Your Second Brain

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gut-brain

 

“All disease begins in the gut.” ~Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine

Have you ever heard the expression “trust your gut”? What about those intuitive “gut feelings” we all experience? There’s very good reason for those “butterflies” in your tummy, so let’s shine some light on this fascinating topic.

Your body actually has two brains…. one in your head, and one in your gut.

Interestingly, your brain and gastrointestinal tract are composed of the same type of tissue! How cool is that? With a simple thought, brain neurons fire tiny sparks of electricity, which ignite the central nervous system (brain plus spinal chord). On the other hand, when we’re driven by intuition, the gut actually sends information to your brain via the enteric nervous system (the gastrointestinal tract). Think of it as your emotional GPS.

Your gut does so much more than simply digest food. For example, the bacteria living there (around 100 trillion strong) have a profound effect on your mental health, heart function, skin, mood, weight, and overall wellness. In addition, 70-80% of your immune system is controlled by gut tissue (gut-associated lymphoid tissue)! Understanding this alone can change your entire approach to health.

Your gut microflora (bacteria) outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one, and imbalances in these bacteria have been linked to autoimmune diseases (including lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Parkinson’s), behavioral issues, autism, immunity, allergies, skin problems (dryness, eczema, and psoriasis), depression, anxiety, and even cancer.

So, how do we stress the gut?

#1 Overuse of medication and antibacterial products

Seventy percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug. And even though you may not be taking antibiotics, they can still make their way onto your plate through meat consumption, as 80% of antibiotics in the United States are fed to farm animals (a great reason to buy organic!). These drugs damage your intestinal lining and wreak havoc on friendly bacteria populations.

#2 We are TOO clean!

It’s no secret that our society has become obsessed with antibacterial products. We over-sanitize at every turn! A large percentage of your good bacteria live on the skin, working hard to protect you from potentially harmful foreign invaders in the outside world. Continual use of antibacterials can corrupt your innate microbial balance and weaken the immune system. Not to mention, many antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, which may alter hormones and interfere with heart function. Keep it simple: wash with a small amount of plain soap and water.

#3 Poor Diet

Perhaps the most significant factor causing destruction in the gut is the Standard American Diet (SAD)- loaded with processed foods, excess sugars, refined grains, and genetically modified ingredients. Sugar and refined grains, especially, compromise your beneficial gut bacteria, promote inflammation, and can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. The simple consumption of probiotics, fermented foods, raw vegetables and leafy greens can work wonders in your gut!

For true lifelong wellness, one must learn how to maintain a clean and healthy gut. In a follow-up The Paper Trail article, I will provide some super easy tips and habits for taking care of this incredibly important system- our second brain.

Sources:

Mercola, J. Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Repair Itself. Harmony Books, 2015

Axe, J. Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure it. HarperCollins, 2016

Junger, A. Clean Gut: The Breakthrough Plan for Elimination the Root Cause of Disease and Revolutionizing Your Health. HarperCollins, 2013

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Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part 2

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Let’s face it… old habits can be hard to break. It takes work and commitment. On top of that, we live in a society that pushes and markets “magic bullet” fixes. So, it’s quite easy to find excuses for why you are stuck in the same routines.

However, you have the power to change this! Starting now. An easy place to begin is with daily rituals, the behaviors that make up our day-to-day lives and support our health, goals and happiness. When it comes to health, start with small, effective routines, and watch them snowball into a lifelong wellness.

Last month’s The Paper Trail article outlined the first half of my top healthy lifestyle habits, including…

#1 Create a morning routine

#2 Stay hydrated

#3 Practice intermittent fasting

#4 Get outside in the sunshine

Let’s complete the list!

#5 Focus on Gut Health

We learn more everyday about the importance of a healthy gut in preventing disease and supporting overall health and wellness. Did you know that 80% of your immune system lies in the gut?

It’s not just what you eat that matters, but we must also pay attention to how our bodies digest and absorb the goodness in our food. Adopting habits that support gut health can lead to optimal wellness.

A simple way to do so is by eating fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchee, organic yogurt with no added sugars, kefir, and Kombucha tea). You can also add a high quality probiotic to your daily supplement routine to replenish and support good gut bacteria. And don’t forget to chew your food; your stomach doesn’t have teeth after all.

#6 Simplify Your Diet With Colorful, Whole Foods

One of the easiest dietary habits you can implement is to focus on whole foods. What is a whole food? Think, one ingredient. Broccoli, quinoa, almonds, salmon, kale, eggs, apples, walnuts, brown rice, black beans, etc.

We all know vegetables are good for us, and plant-based foods are thriving with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and healing compounds that balance the body, decrease inflammation, and prevent cancer. Take charge of your health and start feeling better now by eating more plant-strong foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, unrefined whole grains, herbs, etc.).

Fill your plate with mostly veggies (and colorful ones). Avoid processed foods when possible. Try drinking your vegetables in smoothies or juices. Incorporate more raw, living foods into your diet, if digestion permits.

WholeFoods

#7 Move Your Body

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

~Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Our bodies were designed to move and sweat. It’s that simple.

The body heals faster when you exercise regularly, and sweating is an important outlet for detoxification. Movement stimulates the lymphatic system, which governs the main channels of elimination while moving oxygen throughout the body.

We have a tendency to over-complicate things, exercise being one of the many. Just focus on adding more movement to your life. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have a desk, get up a move every hour. Take an easy walk after meals to improve digestion. Do some evening stretches before bed. Jump more… jumping jacks, jump rope, and trampoline. Chase your kids or pets. Dance. Garden. Enjoy life in the process.

#8 Practice Mindful Dining

The psychology of eating is quite fascinating. What you choose to consume is incredibly important, but did you know that the emotion with which you eat affects how your body digests food?

Part of your central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, controls your digestion. What does this mean? When you eat under stress, for example, the nervous system actually suppresses digestive activity. The opposite is also true: when you’re relaxed during mealtime, digestion is activated.

Start paying attention to your state when eating. Slow down, and notice the beautiful colors, textures, and tastes of your food. Chew completely. Eat when calm and relaxed. Try to minimize multi-tasking during meals. Breathe and express gratitude before eating. Whenever you eat, regardless of what it is, enjoy, savor, and be mindful of the experience.

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