Have you said something you didn’t mean because you were hungry? Felt butterflies in your stomach when your crush walked into the classroom? Felt nauseous before giving a presentation? Have you contemplated trusting your gut feeling? If you’ve experienced one of these situations or have ever felt depressed, you’ve experienced the phenomenon of the gut-brain connection.
The Gastroenterology Research Unit of the Mayo Clinic discovered that up to 95 percent of serotonin – a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mood balance – is found in our gastrointestinal tract, not in our brain. It is estimated that over 80 percent of our immune system is located in our digestive system, and within the last few years, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia have been treated with the same prebiotics and probiotics found in the fermented foods and yogurts that we eat. Another study highlighting the gut-brain connection showed that those with diabetes are at a 65 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The gut-brain connection is so cogent, scientists are advocating for both the enteric nervous system (‘ENS’ – governs the function of the gastrointestinal system) and central nervous system (CNS) to be considered one and the same.
While the gut-brain connection can be explored in much greater depth and detail, this is how it works on the most basic level: Our 30-foot long digestive system is lined with cells of the ENS— a complex system of approximately 100 million nerves that develop from the same tissue as the CNS in the womb. After birth, the ENS uses many of the same chemical messengers (aka neurotransmitters) to “communicate” with our central nervous system.
Our digestive system is located in the center of our body, communicates with our Central Nervous System, and is at the center of our health.
A digestive system that functions at an optimal level is critical for the prevention of all diseases—from depression to cancer. Our bodies are designed to eat foods in their natural state to achieve the most nutritional impact. Accordingly, fresh foods need to be eaten to fuel all of our body’s processes. Processed foods are devoid of living nutrients and thus cannot live up to the job. Raw vegetables, fruits, seeds, water, prebiotics, and probiotics are the keys when craving a proper cleanse. Raw green vegetables and fresh fruits provide stimulation in the form of fiber required to cleanse the colon of insufficiently digested food, contain digestive enzymes to help further break it down, and also contain the prebiotics necessary to feed the naturally occurring healthy bacteria in our guts!
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When we consume processed foods, it is no surprise that we feel bad. Our gut-brain connection is being significantly impeded in two ways. First, processed foods not only lack the fiber and naturally occurring prebiotics of fresh foods that are necessary for proper gut health, but also lack the necessary nutrients for proper brain function. Over time, the buildup of toxins in our intestines inhibits our guts ability to circulate feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin into our bloodstream. Second, our body recognizes these high-calorie, low nutritional value foodstuffs as foreign invaders – not food – and sends out antibodies to attack, causing collateral damage to our cells. The development of autoimmune disease is just one grave consequence.
A strong, functioning colon should eliminate substances within 16 to 24 hours of eating through a peristaltic wave-like motion that moves food through the system and properly processes nutrients and water. There is no way around it – a healthy digestive system is central to a healthy mind-body connection.
Here are 3 steps to keeping your midsection in the best shape:
Step 1: Choose a way to naturally cleanse your colon—either through support from your diet or through a naturally stimulating digestive aid
Step 2: Re-introduce healthy, good bacteria by way of probiotics including yogurt or fermented foods.
Step 3: Get moving! Abdominal exercises, deep breathing exercises, and a 15-minute walk will really help.
2 cups Baby Spinach
1 stalk Celery
½ cup Blackberries
½ cup Fage Greek Yogurt (Whichever percentage of fat you prefer)
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon Flax Seeds
Liquid Stevia to taste
Place ingredients in a Blendtec, Vitamix or blender and blend to desired consistency. Consume within 20 minutes to get the most nutritional benefit!
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