Our gut is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria – our gut microbiome. Seventy percent of our immune system is located in our gut and 70-95 percent of our brain neurotransmitters are made and located in the gut. Brain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA – our calming neurotransmitters are located there. These play a key role in optimal brain functioning.
There are several things that can interfere with proper gut health and disrupt the flora of the microbiome.
Disruptors to gut health include:
- Taking antibiotics (only take when absolutely necessary)
- GMO foods (crops from soybean, canola, sugar beets, corn and cottonseed oil commonly found in fast foods and processed foods)
- Artificial sugars like aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose can destroy gut flora (make sure you read your ingredient labels)
- Mold & Mycotoxins
- Alcohol & smoking
- Stress & a lack of physical activity
- Excess sugar in the diet can create dysbiosis in the gut
- A lack of diversity in one’s diet – eating a diet rich in whole foods from various sources can help grow different types of bacteria, resulting in diverse gut flora
- A low fiber diet and low prebiotics, such as onions, leeks, lentils and asparagus
- Impaired digestion
Improper digestion of our food and protein means the amino acids are not available to the brain to support neurotransmitter production, directly affecting mood, sleep, and cravings. The overuse of antibiotics, along with insufficient prebiotics in the diet to prepare the gut to grow healthy microbiota, impairs the production of neurotransmitters and subsequently causes mood problems like depression and anxiety.
To improve your gut flora, eat a diverse diet of nutrient-dense whole foods, probiotic-rich foods or supplements, get quality sleep, work on stress management techniques and avoid GMO foods and excess sugar and alcohol. You may also need to supplement with certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids if you avoid specific food groups, have numerous food allergies, eat vegan or have a gut disorder. One of the best tests I use with my clients is the Genova GI Effects Stool Profile, which looks at gut functioning and your microbiome. It offers fascinating information to help resolve gut issues.