Did you know your gut has nearly a trillion single-cell microbes living in it? That’s a lot of extra bugs, and scientists are just scratching the surface of what is known about them. I find a lot of this fascinating to learn about, so I’ll share some fun facts and some tips to keep your gut in tip-top shape.
Fun Fact #1: Your gut and your brain are intimately linked. Research has linked nearly every mental health issue from depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, etc., to the health of our microbiome, which is the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that live in our intestines. Gives new meaning to “I have a gut feeling”! When it comes to boosting your happy neurotransmitter serotonin, the gut is key; nearly 98 percent of it is made in the small intestine. Feeling blue? Check your gut first!
Fun Fact #2: Your skin is a reflection of you gut. Eczema, psoriasis, and acne have all been linked to the health of our gut biome. Instead of thinking of topical creams to deal with these issues, we may need to look deeper into what’s feeding our microbiome.
Fun Fact #3: Someone else’s poop might save your life. You may have heard of C. diff, a horrible antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that occurs in our older population during hospital stays. It’s bad, like you could die from diarrhea and there’s not much they can do for you. However, one of the stranger and probably grossest medical treatments is a fecal transplant. Yup, someone else’s poop, IN YOU. Give someone with C. diff a fecal transplant (obviously with a healthy donor’s poop), and they are cured in days. Watch this Video if you want to see some remarkable stories about it.
Fun Fact #4: Someone else’s poop might make you fat, or skinny. We just don’t know all that much about the complexity of what our gut biome does. When a 32-year-old woman received a fecal transplant to save her life from a C. diff infection, she was cured, but she also gained over 30 pounds, which has caused some to question whether our biome has more control over our body weight than we understand. It turns out the donor for her fecal transplant was obese, and the woman who received the transplant had never struggled with her weight until after the transplant. There have also been some interesting studies where they’ve exposed mice without any gut bacteria to obese and underweight mice, and well, mice eat each other’s poo. Turns out the mice will gain or lose weight based on the poop they eat. I’m not sure what it all means besides there is some crazy stuff to learn about our guts and what lives in them.
Now you may wonder how to get this healthy gut that keeps your brain optimal, your skin beautiful and your butt fitting into those jeans you wore in high school. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Eat a lot of veggies. Eat the rainbow, eat them raw, eat them cooked. Just eat a lot.
2. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
3. Avoid antibiotic cleaners and hand sanitizers.
4. Eat dirt. Get those veggies above from your local farmers. Don’t go crazy washing them. A little dirt has billions of soil-based organisms that your body needs to stay healthy.
5. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Studies show that they may disrupt our gut health and not in a good way.
6. Eat fermented foods. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and pickles are fermented and have probiotics that cultures have eaten for generations. Having these as part of your diet can be great to keep those cultures healthy in the gut.
7. Slide your sleep mask back down over your eyes and get a little more sleep on the weekends. Getting enough sleep helps lower cortisol levels and allows time for the gut to repair itself.
8. If you think you have food sensitivities try an elimination diet. Cut out gluten, dairy, grains, soy, and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
9. Like we always say…eat whole foods, avoid processed foods.