Your gut is your second brain

Are You Getting Enough Fiber and Fermented Foods in Your Diet?

Ideally, include a variety of fermented foods and beverages in your diet, because each food will inoculate your gut with a mix of different microorganisms. There are many fermented foods you can easily make at home, including:

  • Fermented vegetables, including pureed baby foods
  • Chutneys
  • Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise
  • Cultured dairy, such as yogurt, kefir, and sour cream
  • Fish, such as mackerel and Swedish gravlax

As for fiber, dietary guidelines call for 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. I believe an ideal amount for most adults is likely much higher, perhaps twice as much. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

This is ideal, as both help feed the microorganisms living in your gut. So to maximize your health benefits, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Following is a small sampling of foods that contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.

I am a major fan of fiber especially soluble fibers like psyllium as they not only serve as a prebiotic for your microbiome but are also metabolized to short chain fatty acids like butyrate, propionic and acetate that nourish your colonic cells. They are also converted to ketones that nourish your tissues.

I personally consume nearly 100 grams of fiber a day and about 2 tablespoons of organic psyllium three times a day that provides about 25 grams of soluble fiber. The other 75 percent of my fiber comes primarily from vegetables and seeds.

Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds Berries Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Root vegetables and tubers, including onions, sweet potatoes, and jicama Almonds Peas
Green beans Cauliflower Beans

Swapping Gut Bacteria May Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is another common health problem that can be traced back to impaired gut flora. Studies have found that themicrobial composition in diabetics differ from non-diabetics. In particular, diabetics tend to have fewer Firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, compared to non-diabetics. A positive correlation for the ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance has also been found.

A researcher in Amsterdam, Dr. Max Nieuwdorp, has published a number of studies looking at changes in the microbiome that are characteristic of type 2 diabetes. In one trial, he was able to reverse type 2 diabetes in all of the 250 study participants by doing fecal transplantations on them. Remarkable as it may sound, by changing the makeup of the gut bacteria, the diabetes was resolved.

Even more interesting, type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) in young children also tends to be preceded by a change in gut bacteria. This makes sense as your gut flora control about 80 percent of your immune response and type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The good news is that researchers have found that certain microbes can actually help prevent type 1 diabetes, suggesting your gut flora may indeed be an epigenetic factor that plays a significant role in this condition.

Your Gut Is Your Second Brain

The quality, quantity, and composition of the bacteria in your gut have enormous influence on your brain. For example, studies15,16 have found that autistic children have distinctly different microbiome compared to healthy children. Notably, they tend to have fewer beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium.

Addressing such imbalances is the core component of the GAPS nutritional program, created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who believes “healing and sealing” the gut is paramount for those with neurological dysfunction, including autism. Dr. David Perlmutter also explores the connection between gut health and degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s in his new book, “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life.”

This again goes back to the fact that gut microbes help maintain the integrity of your gut lining. As explained by Dr. Perlmutter,17 many of the factors that affect permeability of the blood-brain barrier are similar to those that affect the gut, which is why leaky gut can lead to neurological diseases as easily as it can manifest as some other form of autoimmune disorder.

The permeability of your gut lining can be measured by looking at a chemical called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is the covering over certain groups of bacteria in your gut. When you have higher levels of antibodies against LPS in the bloodstream, it’s a marker of leaky gut. LPS is also in and of itself a powerful instigator of the inflammatory cascade.

Higher levels of LPS in the blood dramatically increase inflammation throughout your body, including your brain. Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, for example, are both correlated with dramatically elevated levels of LPS.

Mood Disorders May Be Rooted in Impaired Microbiome Too

Not only can impairments in your microbiome promote neurological diseases, it can also have a powerful impact on your general mood. Depression is increasingly starting to be viewed as a symptom of poor gut health, and therein may lie the real cure as well … For example, in one recent study18 ,19,20 researchers found that fermented foods and drinks helped curb social anxiety disorder in young adults.

Previous trials have also demonstrated that probiotics can help ease both anxiety and depression.  For example, one study21found that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels — an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes — in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.

In another study,22 people who took a multi-strain probiotic for at least four weeks reported a lessening of rumination — recurring, persistent thoughts about something distressing that has or may happen, which tends to create anxiety. Another recent study23,24 found that high-glycemic foods (including those high in refined grains and added sugar) were associated with higher odds of depression.


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