Recently, I have been reading a ton of articles which directly link gut health to depression and disease. If you have read them as well, I’m sorry to be redundant. However, if you don’t stay up late reading nerdy science articles like me, then I hope you get something out of this.
Research has shown that inflammation in the gut is very common in people with autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, cancer, and depression. Inflammation in the gut is a sign that the healthy bacteria living in there have been severely damaged or killed. These bacteria, which naturally live in our GI tract, do way more than we give them credit for. When we imbalance or kill them off, we can get sick beyond belief.
How do most germs enter our body? That’s right, through our mouths. Maybe we didn’t wash our produce from the grocery store, or the person cooking our food didn’t wash their hands, or maybe we call out the 5-second rule too often. Your digestive system is the first line of defense against most of the bacteria that you will come into contact with. The healthy bacteria in our GI tract fight off any foreign bacteria that enters our system. That is a pretty darn important job. So, when we damage our poor little intestines with a high sugar and highly acidic diet, or too many processed foods, we are slowly wearing down that defense system and weakening our whole immune system. Weakening the immune system for a long period of time can lead to a serious illness or disease.
In addition, your gut bacteria plays a crucial roll in serotonin regulation and production. It actually produces more than your brain does. Crazy huh? Serotonin literally makes you feel good; a low level of this is directly linked to depression. So if your gut is damaged, you can be sure depression will follow.
What can you do to heal your gut and improve your overall health?
Stop the damage:
Cut back on sugar! If you know me, you know this one breaks my heart. I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. But seriously, it wreaks havoc on our bodies, and it kills that healthy bacteria we need.
Avoid processed foods. If it has an ingredient that sounds like it is out of a chemistry book, then don’t eat it! Cook from scratch more, or find foods with the most basic ingredients. There are plenty of low-cost all natural foods that can be found at your local grocer (Trader Joe’s, Market Basket, etc).
Choose your meat wisely! Typical meat is loaded with antibiotics. Meat filled with antibiotics can destroy your healthy bacteria. Choose hormone free and organic meat; it is worth the extra money.
Build up your bacteria:
Eat probiotics! Probiotics are the bacteria that live in yogurt, kefir, cheese, and fermented veggies to name a few. Put that high-sugar gogurt down! I mean some good old fashion yogurt without any added sugar.
Eat prebiotics! These are the foods that feed these bacteria you worked so hard to build up. Keep those little guys healthy and well fed. Prebiotics are your high fiber fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Now, get off the Internet, clean the junk food out of your cabinets, and eat some probiotics!