By health expert and author Sara Davenport
Brain health has never seemed such a priority. We are facing a tsunami of metal health problems – statistics show that one in four people (in the UK) will suffer from anxiety and depression in any given year. On top of that, the dementia epidemic facing our increasingly ageing population has become as frightening as the threat of cancer. Only recently (18th February 2020), a report by Alzheimer Europe has revealed that “the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050”.
I frequently get asked about the connection between the brain and the gut on my blog (www.reboothealth.co.uk), and it’s a subject that I’ve written extensively about in my latest book Reboot Your Brain. I am a fervent believer in the brain-body connection, and that our “gut instinct” (or sixth sense feeling that we sometimes experience) could be an important conference call we should hack into more often. Our brain is constantly having regular two-way conversations with our gut, and what it reveals could be the answer to much more than we think.
We are what we eat
It is well known that the gut flora can be contributory to a healthy immune system, but there is also mounting evidence to support that the microbiome (gut flora), influences everything from depression to the risk of dementia – proving we literally are what we eat. 90%+ serotonin (happy hormone), and 50% of your body’s dopamine is made by gut bacteria, so if this flora is imbalanced it can affect mood, mental focus and memory. The gut also contains millions of neurons, sometimes referred to as the second brain, or as I call them the “gut ‘brain’ cells”, which are not only there to signal the more obvious functions of digestion like satiation or sickness, they also help you think and remember. This explains that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, a negative feeling of dread, which isn’t an imagined displacement of the brain’s feelings into another part of the body, you really are feeling emotions there. So there really is a powerful connection between your gut and your brain.
Gut microbes could be affecting our mental health
Our brain health is determined early in our childhood, with a dose of help from our genetics, but it also transcends to our gut. Scientists are finding that gut microbes could be affecting our mental health too. They can direct the way you think and behave as well as indicate the likelihood of your developing certain mental illnesses. Anxiety, depression, ADHD and memory problems have been shown to be linked to problems with the gut flora. Analysing the microbiome might reveal potential brain or mental health diseases and could even mean that if that balance was adjusted with “brain biotics”, or what I like to describe as “probiotics with brain-changing properties”, known as ‘psychobiotics’ there might even be potential to cure those diseases in the future. There’s not much you can do to alter and change your genes, but when this new research becomes medical fact, the fate of your mind could well be in your own hands. With specially designed brain biotics you can literally change the chemical balance of your mind. This is the cutting edge of brain medicine and extremely exciting.
The gut-brain connection
Of course, the gut-brain connection is more complicated than we know currently, but the potential could be more far reaching for the body and mind. I’ve outlined my 5 step action plan for promoting gut-brain health here. I hope it helps – it could be the best call intervention you ever made:
- Choose a good probiotic supplement Make sure that it is one that will help your specific symptoms. There are plenty of mass-produced synthesised products, but there are smaller companies who can offer combinations of naturally produced probiotic strains, such as Micromax, which has more than 60 strains (healthy.co.uk). Consult my list of probiotics and their specific brain benefits to choose the right ones for you.
- Look for probiotic yogurt with GcMAF This is a probiotic yoghurt that contains 42 essential probiotics and GcMAF, one of the most powerful of the immune system activators. GcMAF stimulates production of macrophages, immune cells that attack and destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, boosts immunity and prevents metastasis of cancer cells.
- Take a natural anti-inflammatory Try aloe vera, curcumin or evening primrose oil.
- Cut sugar out of your diet Sugar triggers the release of inflammatory cytokines that impair cognitive clarity
- Exercise more This will boost your mitochondria. Consider a ketogenic diet This very low-carb, high-fat diet cuts inflammation in the brain, reducing stress.
Find out more about the ‘gut-brain’ connection in Sara’s latest best-selling book Reboot Your Brain (£12.99, Reboot Press, available from good book stores and Amazon) and sign up for regular updates about ‘gut-brain’ and other topics of the mind at www.reboothealth.co.uk.
Sara Davenport Bio
Sara Davenport has been at the centre of the wellbeing sector for three decades. In 1998, she set up the charity, Breast Cancer Haven, which is now one of the UK’s leading national breast cancer charities with seven centres across the country.
Through her work with doctors, nutritionists and therapists, Sara has an unrivalled view of both traditional and complementary medicine. Her aim is to widen the understanding of how non-invasive, natural approaches to healing can work hand in hand with conventional medical treatments. Her goal is to help each one of us to learn about the fundamental basics of good health, providing inexpensive and effective tools to help you take responsibility for your own wellbeing and live a healthy, happy life.
Sara is the author of Reboot Your Health: Simple tests and solutions to assess and improve your health (Hay House 2018), a holistic DIY manual that helps you establish how well your body is functioning and build a clear and detailed map of what’s working and what is not. She also writes the weekly blog www.reboothealth.co.uk, featuring articles covering an extensive range of health issues and offering simple, but effective, natural solutions.