Most people tend solely to think about their anatomy and the functions of their organs specific to the exact role that they are supposed to carry out. In the case of our guts this is the crucial function of digestion and absorption of energy, vitamins and minerals that keep the body running.
However what is rarely acknowledged is the important influence that our guts have over our psychology, as the gut produces powerful neurotransmitters that can seriously affect brain health. Here follows four tips that can easily be incorporated into day-to-day routines to help maintain a healthy gut while providing a stimulating healthy boost to overall brain function.
1) Breathe Deep & Slow
Maintaining slow and deep breathing plays a massive role in decreasing levels of stress. This isn’t just a psychological effect, in fact there are genuine physiological reasons for why such relaxation techniques work. Deep breathing helps to limit and control the amount of cortisol – often called the ‘stress hormone’- that the brain naturally produces.
Lowering the amount of cortisol in this natural way improves overall mood and reduces stress upon the gut, aiding the gastrointestinal process and helping to preserve the essential bacteria that allow our bodies to process and absorb the vitamins and minerals essential to god health.
In high stress situations the brain produces cortisol in such quantity that it hinders the body’s digestive system in order to focus upon ‘fight or flight’, exactly the same physiological response that would have been shared by our primitive ancestors. The key to maintaining control over cortisol is to keep a steady control over the stress that affects day to day life, and being able to control breathing is a great step forward in achieving this.
2) Enjoy A Cup Or Two Of Green Tea Each Day
Green tea is excellent at stimulating the production of serotonin within the body. Often known as the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin is largely produced by bacteria within the gut, alongside other essential hormones such as dopamine (pleasure), noradrenaline (fight/flight response) and GABA (universal inhibitor). Maintaining a healthy balance of these is essential for a healthy brain.
Green tea is an excellent source of L-theanine – an amino acid – which stimulates the production of these hormones and helps increase serotonin levels. Also it is full of anti-oxidants that contribute towards preserving cardiovascular health and insulin regulation.
3) Eat Foods ThatContain Plenty Of Tryptophan
95% of serotonin is produced within the gut and it is very important to eat foods rich in tryptophan – an amino acid – that is required for adequate production. Symptoms that might suggest a deficiency include but are not limited to sleeplessness, depression, craving for sugars and indigestion.
Fortunately tryptophan is typically found within foods that are in themselves very healthy. Some examples are – poultry (aim for organic/hormone free if possible), fish, seeds, chickpeas and beets, so try to include plenty of these within the diet where possible to maintain a healthy level of production.
4) Keep On The Move At Least 30 Minutes A Day
The gut is often called the ‘second brain’ for good reason – in that much like our actual brain it also requires stimulation and exercise in order to stay alert and productive. It’s important to remember that the brain and gut are intrinsically intertwined and dependent upon each other for overall bodily health. Regular exercise has a host of positive effects upon the body such as improving digestion, encouraging positive mood, regulating blood sugar levels and encouraging decent sleep to name just a few.
Exercise needn’t mean hitting the gym for intensive daily workouts; just being active and moving – say walking, hiking, swimming, yoga or weights – brings incalculable benefits to the body in both the immediate and long terms.
Don’t rule out the potential benefits that can also be garnered from homeopathic remedies, herbal extracts and mineral supplements. Just be sure to check with a doctor beforehand as what suits one person might not be ideal for others.