Feed Your 'Second Brain': The Benefits of Fermented Foods for a Healthy Body and High-Performance Mind.
The concept of living life by listening to your intuition and paying attention to your 'gut feeling' is nothing new – it's something that echoes through the wisdom of the ages. And it's not merely folklore, with scientists increasingly revealing more about the nerve cells in the gut that have an intelligence all of their own. Indeed, experts such as Dr. Michael Gershon, author of The Second Brain, believes that nourishing the nerve cells in the gut, is essential to ensuring that ‘Chaos in the gut, doesn't manifest as misery in the head'. While a holistic approach to health and nutrition are likely to support gut health, regularly consuming fermented food such as sourdough and kombucha is a delicious and proven way to take a quantum leap forward with your wellness and create a happier, high-performance mind.
The Second Brain – Why Gut Health is Crucial for Health and Wellness
The latest neuroscience suggests our mental wellness is intrinsically linked to the health of our guts – with the balance of 'good and bad' bacteria (microbiome) playing a crucial role. But if we're going to make changes to our lives, such as preparing fermented foods like kimchi or picking-up some fresh kombucha tea – we need some real motivation – what's really in it for you?
To answer this question – you need to understand the magnificence of your digestive system....
Our guts contain millions of neurons and around 4-5 pounds of bacteria, playing a key role in processes including muscle function, immunity, detoxification, nutrient absorption, inflammation, satiety, vitamin synthesis and hormone production. Information from the gut's nervous system runs along the vagus nerve, directly up the spine, to the central nervous system and brain – with neurotransmitters that literally talk to the brain in their own language.
Amazingly, over 80% of the synthesis of the feel-good chemical, serotonin, happens in the gut! Similarly, the gut is vital for the production of amino acids such as GABA, which helps reduce brainwave stress and glutamate - both are vital for thought, learning and memory.
Your gut affects who you are every day
What happens in your gut – happens in your brain!
And this means your gut microbiome affects who you are every day – including your mood, sex drive, clarity of thought and even your subjective perception of reality. It can play a key role in everyday problems such as anxiety, depression, brain fog, irritability and negativity, while science identifies impaired gut health as a risk factor in the development of conditions including dementia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, asthma and ADHD.
Create a Healthier Microbiome with Fermented Foods
The relationship between the gut and brain is very complex – we've merely touched on the science. Nevertheless, you're probably already waking-up to the fact that it is affecting how you feel right now in this moment – while potentially influencing the destiny of your future health and wellbeing.
But where do fermented foods come into play?
Fundamentally, the function of the gut is related to the integrity of your microbiome – which simply put, means the balance of 'good and bad bacteria'. Research suggests that an unbalanced microbiome can lead to a host of problems, including leaky gut, where the protective intestinal barrier stop functioning efficiently. As a result, undigested food, toxins and undesirable substances can pass into the blood stream and create systematic inflammation, trigger the immune system and negatively impact health and brain function in many ways.
Factors that may negatively affect gut flora
• Excess refined sugar
• Lack of sleep
• Artificial sweeteners and preservatives
The good news is that by eating more of the right foods, you can positively cultivate your microbiome – and fermented food is a real winner thanks to its array of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Studies into depression have revealed a strong relationship between a lack of fermented food and an increased risk of mental health problems. By regularly consuming foods such as kimchi, kombucha and bio-yogurt – you're likely to become a better version of yourself in the now – while protecting long-term health.
Probiotic Stars for Your Diet
Fermented foods have made their way increasingly into supermarkets, juice bars and the home. One to two servings a day, of unprocessed fermented foods, can do wonders for your body and mind.
Nourishing your 'second brain' with fermented foods is a simple strategy that you can use to enhance your health and wellbeing in the now and the future. Make it part of your daily routine and expect to start feeling the benefits within days.
Gershon, M. 1998. The Second brain. Pubslished by: Harper Collins.
Qinghui, M. et al., 2017. Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Published in: Front Immunol.
Wallace, J. et al., 2017.The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Published in: Ann Gen Psychiatry.