Why is Gut Health Important?
Your gut health status is closely connected to your overall health. There are at least 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria in your gut along with viruses and other microorganisms. Together, they form an ecosystem known as the gut microbiome that comprises beneficial, harmful and opportunistic microbes. For example, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin. Serotonin is also known as the “happy hormone” and affects both mood and GI activity.
There is a fine balance between the good and bad bacteria in our gut. Whenever this balance is out of sync, it leads to a state known as dysbiosis. Over the long term, gut dysbiosis causes chronic inflammation that leads to many issues like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and many others. One such issue is stress and anxiety. There is a cause and effect relationship between digestive issues and anxiety. Anxiety can lead to poor gut health and poor gut health can lead to anxiety. It is a vicious circle that needs to be broken with the right corrective steps. This is where Bione comes in.
Bione specializes in comprehensive health care solutions that identifies the risk for illness before it can take root. The Bione Gut Microbiome test provides you with an overview of the microbes in your gut. This can help recognize any imbalance so that you can restore your gut status with a few dietary modifications. Bione’s dieticians can help you work on a personalized diet plan that can transform your health over a period of time. You will end up changing not just your diet, but your entire lifestyle and attain new levels of wellness.
The connection between stress and gut health
The term “butterflies in my stomach” is true in every sense. We have all had moments when we have literally felt nauseous or experienced stomach cramps leading up to an exam or an important job interview. Such symptoms are our body’s way of expressing stress and anxiety.
The scientific explanation for these stomach related symptoms is what is known as the gut brain axis. The gut is literally your “second brain”.
Your gut, in a manner similar to the brain, is full of nerves and in fact has the largest collection of nerves in the body outside the brain. Together, these nerves make up the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is also known as the “second brain”. The types of neurons and neurotransmitters are the same as those found in your central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord.
This gut-brain connection has a direct impact on your digestion, your moods and your very thoughts. The enteric nervous system is made up of over 100 million nerve cells, spread over two layers all the way from your esophagus to your rectum. This is why you experience gut issues when you are tense and anxious.
The gut deals with the breakdown of the food you eat into smaller particles for conversion into energy and nutrients. It deals with all aspects of digestion ranging from swallowing to the release of the different digestive enzymes.
In the past, research had found that conditions like stress and anxiety triggered digestive disorders like bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach pain and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Further studies in recent years proved that it works both ways, that digestive issues could lead to stress and anxiety and even depression.
There is exchange of information between the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the brain as well as between the gut and the immune system. 70% of our immune system lies in our gut and 90% of serotonin or the “happy hormone” is made in the gut. Thus, your gut health has an impact on nerve health as well as your immune system. Poor gut health leads to poor cognitive functioning and deterioration in mental health and weakens the defenses of the body against external factors that cause stress. This contributes to diseases like autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s, pain and general anxiety
Symptoms and Conditions related to Stress and Anxiety
When you are tense and anxious, your body releases some hormones and chemicals that enter the digestive system. The gut microbiome is the collective name for the microbes in your gut. It plays a key role in the digestive process. It helps increase the production of antibodies. The chemicals and hormones released when stressed have an impact on the functioning of the digestive system. This leads to symptoms like nausea, stomach upset, diarrhoea, constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The stereotypical image of the busy business executive who is so stressed that he is always taking pills for his ulcer is not far off the mark
What can be done to Improve Your Gut Health?
- Take a Bione Gut Microbiome Test: The first step to improving gut health is to take a test like the Bione Gut Microbiome test that will give you an idea of the current state of your gut health. Based on the results of the test, you can tweak your diet to attain optimal gut health with help from Bione’s expert dieticians.
- Eat Mindfully: Pay close attention to what you eat and how you eat your food. Do not eat junk food in a hurry just to satisfy your hunger pangs. Take only healthy snacks, plan your meals carefully and do not eat while you are on the laptop or on your phone as you would not be paying attention to what you eat. Enjoy every bite you eat.
- Aid the digestive process: Make digestion as smooth as possible by eating in a relaxed state, having plenty of fibrous food and drinking water. When you are in a relaxed state, you will produce more gastric juices to absorb the nutrients from the food. Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water on a daily basis boosts the digestive process.
- Exercise on a regular basis: Make it a point to exercise on a regular basis. Exercising reduces stress and contributes to your emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Relax: Using relaxation techniques like yoga and spending time with pets or loved ones can help you relax and reduce stress
What kind of diet changes should you make to improve mental health?
There are certain types of foods which can increase both your gut health and your mental health.
- Fibre: Eating foods that are rich in fiber like oats, nuts, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables can sharpen your memory and brighten your mood. Fibre is beneficial for your gut microbiota and decreases inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Vitamin D: Foods that are rich in vitamin D like salmon, tuna, egg yolks can nurture the growth of beneficial bacteria and decrease inflammation in your digestive tract.
- Protein: Upping your protein intake increases the level of nitrogen in food and this can help control the growth of bad bacteria. Protein can reduce anxiety levels as it can boost the production of serotonin, the “happy hormone” in the gut. Yoghurt, milk, eggs, fish, chicken, broccoli and oats are all good sources of hormones.
- Omega-3s: Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids like flax seeds, walnuts and fatty fish like sardines and mackerel can help increase memory and cognitive function. The can also play a role in reducing cholesterol levels and sugar cravings.
It is always better to seek expert help and get a personalized diet based on your unique gut microbiome instead of resorting to trial and error. This is exactly what the Gut health test does. Based on the test, our experts will advise you on exactly what you need to do to reduce stress and anxiety and keep your mind as sharp as ever.