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  • Above Health Nutrition

The Gut-Brain Connection


The gut-brain connection is a two way communication system between our brain and our gut. The brain is constantly talking to the gut and the gut is talking back! The gut can influence our emotions, pain levels, social interactions and even the decisions we make.


What is the gut? The gut refers to our entire digestive system which starts in the mouth and travels all the way to the exit or the anus. The organs in the digestive sy

stem are directly connected to the brain via the nervous system which richly innervates the small and large intestines but also the digestive organs such as stomach, gallbladder and pancreas. The gut also has its own nervous system, called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) which is where it gets its nickname as the “body's second brain”. The gut is the internal barrier to our body that separates the outside environment from our inside environment, such as our blood, brain and other organs. The reason the gut is constructed like this is to allow for the gut to be our body's insight into the safety of our outside world. The gut is how our bodies communicate and understand the outside environment - this is why they need a nervous system to interpret the safety of our outside environment to the brain!


The gut and brain are connected physically, chemically and emotionally!


PHYSICALLY

In the July newsletter we talked about the Vagus Nerve being our super highway! The vagus nerve is the highway that connects the brain to the major organ systems in the body - including our gut!


CHEMICALLY

Reasoning behind having a “gut feeling”: The gut and brain communicate through something called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send instructions through the nervous system - a web of interconnected nerve cells similar to the structure of a spiderweb - to other organs or areas of the body.


What is even more fascinating, is that about 70% of our bodies neurotransmitters are actually made and stored in our - some of which are actually created by our gut microbiome.


Neurotransmitters regulate our mood, sleep, energy and emotions and are responsible for proper gut functioning.


Key Chemical Messengers made in our gut:

  • Dopamine - reward, extraversion, memory, learning, fine motor control, AND relaxes the muscles of the GI tract to help you poop

  • Serotonin - happiness, motivation, calm, cognition, PUSHES things along in the GI tract to get rid of waste

  • GABA - relaxation, sleep (helps you sleep through the night), focus, decreases the pain for your colon to stretch and release toxins (painful stools can be related to low GABA)

  • Norepineprhrine - mobilization, alertness, attention, awake, restlessness

Boost Your Protein Intake!

These brain chemicals are made of protein and are essential for regulating our mood! Protein is made of amino acids - similar to the letters in the alphabet, amino acids are the letters that build the different words or in this case proteins. Proper protein intake from the diet and optimal digestion of protein ensures our body has the materials to build our brain chemicals that are made and stored in the gut AND have a significant role in the gut-brain connection!


The ideal amount of protein to aim for at each meal is 30 g. High protein foods include animal proteins such as meat, chicken, lamb as well as eggs, fish, tempeh, edamame, hemp hearts among others.


CollaGen by Orthomolecular is a brand we like! It has the added benefits ofVitamin C and magnesium!


An easy and convenient way to boost your protein intake is by adding in a high quality collagen supplement to help increase protein intake. It can be added to your morning coffee, tea, smoothies, chia pudding, oatmeal and more!



Other foods that support our gut-brain connection:

  • Soluble fiber foods such as carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, chia seeds & ground flaxseeds.

  • Phytonutrients found in of colorful fruits and vegetables

  • Fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut

  • Omega-3 anti-inflammatory fats found in salmon, olives, chia seeds, and ground flaxseed


EMOTIONALLY

The gut and brain are also connected emotionally which is why we can feel excitement, stress or even fear in our gut and body. Our nervous system has two arms which help to direct the body in its use of energy. One arm of the nervous system is the parasympathetic, which helps the body to transition into “rest & digest” activities such as digestion, sleep, relaxation, safety and even healing. While the other arm of the nervous system is the sympathetic, which helps the body to transition into the “fight or flight” activities such as physical movement, stress, action or survival.


Both of the arms of the nervous system serve a purpose, the big goal is to be able to move from one side to the other easily and not stay in the “fight or flight” nervous system too often. If our bodies remains in the stress state too often and for too long, it can negatively impact the gut which can lead to gut symptoms such as leaky gut, loose stool or constipation, bloating and even change the bacteria. This highlights the importance of regularly practicing activities that feel joyful and soothing to the body to help calm the nervous system and promote optimal gut and overall health.


Activities to soothe the gut-brain nervous system:

  • Walking outside or in nature

  • Deep breathing

  • Meditation

  • Reading a book or a calm activity

  • Doing something that brings you joy!


Want to take a deep dive on the gut-brain connection? This book combines cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome, a practical guide in the tradition of The Second Brain and The Good Gut that conclusively demonstrates the inextricable, biological link between mind and the digestive system.


Last month in our No Drama Digestion program, we heard from Kerri Axelrod - Kerri is a functional medicine nutritionist focusing on the connection of gut health and mental health who believes that anxiety is a symptom, not an illness.



Kerri’s Foundational Steps to Improve Your Gut Health AND Mental Health

  • Eat in a Calm Environment: Move away from distractions (phone, computer, TV, work). Don’t overload your spoon or fork. Food should stay on without falling off. Aim to eat your food in one sitting and enjoy your mealtime!

  • Liquids at Meal time: Drink to thirst at meals, but aim to rehydrate between meals.

  • Digestive Rest: Meals and snacks spaced apart at least 3 hours to give your digestive system optimal time to rest.


Inside of NDD, we guide you through the exact steps to take to heal your gut and there-by healing your gut brain connection to promote optimal mental health!

If you’d like to learn more about the No Drama Digestion program and how to heal your gut for good - schedule a complimentary 30-min Gut Health Strategy call with me by clicking the link below!






Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Servings: 2


Ingredients:

1 cup organic sprouted oats (We love OneDegree Organics)

1 egg

½ banana

3/4 cup diced apple

1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice (room temp)

1 scoop of collagen powder

½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp melted coconut oil

1 tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground ginger

⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp vanilla

1 tbsp maple syrup

⅛ tsp salt


Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat your baking dish with coconut oil - use a paper towel to wipe with coconut oil. You can also use a small baking ramekin or fill several muffin tins with the mixture.

  • Blend all ingredients, except the diced apple, in a blender.

  • Pour mixture into your baking dish and fold in the diced apples.

  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and set.

  • Top with extra apple slices, walnuts or maple syrup!


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