By Dr Tasnim Khan and Dr Alya Ahmad MD – founders (see our team page) of ShaMynds Healing Center in Sacramento CA
There is more and more data demonstrating that our gut health is intricately related to our mental health. At ShaMynds, we assess your gut health and other variables to support your success with ketamine assisted therapy. We even offer this testing and treatment to those seeking opportunities for wellness aside from ketamine assisted psychotherapy.
There are so many phrases that we hear every day that are examples of just how much our guts influence our feelings and mind. Here are some common phrases.
- Trust your gut
- Gut wrenching
- Butterflies in your stomach
- Your gut feeling
The mind-gut connection is more than a collection of phrases though. The microbes that live in your gut influence your feelings and behaviors.
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria and other microbes that directly communicate with your brain along the gut-brain axis, also known as the vagus nerve. We initially thought the brain was doing most of the talking in this relationship, but new gut microbiome research indicates that your microbes are quite chatty. They are talking all the time with our brains. They do this by producing or consuming the majority of neurotransmitters. You know serotonin, your “happy” neurotransmitter? Did you know that over 90% of your body’s serotonin is made by your gut microbiome?
In fact, a change in the composition of your gut microbes has been shown to significantly affect:
- Your mood
- Your pain tolerance
- Your cognitive performance
- Your behavior
- Your mental health
We’ve found that when the gut ecosystem is out of balance it can cause brain fog, depression, anxiety and even dementia. In fact, new areas of neuroscience are looking from the bottom-up and focusing on how the gut impacts the brain.
All these findings and more have earned your gut microbiome the nickname – THE SECOND BRAIN –Your second brain has its proverbial hands on every function in your body.
The Chair of Rutgers University Human Microbiome program, Dr Martin Blaser states:
“The composition of the microbiome and its activities are involved in most, if not all, of the biological processes that constitute human health and disease.”
So, when it comes to improving brain health, a great way to start is by paying attention to the health of your gut. Fortunately, because you’re reading this, you already have a serious advantage.
Healthy Gut, Healthy Brain
What you eat is one of the most important factors influencing your health. The foods you eat are broken down and transformed by your gut microbiome to nourish the rest of your body.
You read that right – it’s your gut microbiome that’s digesting most of your food.
You are what you eat – and if you aren’t eating the right foods for a healthy brain (and second brain) then you’re going to feel it. We’ve all experienced times where we felt as though we couldn’t access the full capacity of our brain – this can often be due to the gut-brain connection.
Depending on what microbes are inhabiting your gut right now, they can take the food you eat and metabolize it into beneficial nutrients or harmful metabolites. Your microbes also neutralize compounds from food, like oxalates from nuts and spinach digestion.
For example, neurotransmitter production in the brain is dependent on specific proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Your brain needs a balanced intake of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins to keep you at your best. 5 Folic acid, for instance, is critical for brain function and cognition. Your microbes are responsible for metabolizing your food to keep a steady supply of folic acid flowing to the brain. If microbes aren’t fed properly, their ability to create specific vitamins, like folate, decreases, and impacts neurotransmitter synthesis. This leaves your brain struggling to communicate and the dreaded “brain fog” settles in.
Your gut microbiome is unique and dynamic, so to fully know what you’re dealing with and how to modify your microbes for better health you’ll need advice that’s specific to you. Advice that also tracks your changes over time.
The uniqueness and dynamic nature of your gut microbiome is the reason why one diet doesn’t fit all. It can also be why recommendations can be effective for one person, and completely useless for another.
Reduce inflammation, at ShaMynds Healing Center, we know that there is clinically evidence that chronic stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorder, lead to inflammation in the gut and brain. Thus we recommend many forms of diet based on your condition and lifestyle. If you are needing a nutritionist we also offer nutrition consultation and specific guidance. It is also important to realize that the industrialized diet lifestyles have lead to depletion of micronutrients in our soil and whole foods, macronutrients, and amino-acid and gluten sensitivities. Supplementation is often recommended and builds on replenishment and healing. (LINK to Nutrition Consultation booking in our team)
Probiotics & The Brain
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The birth of probiotics was a direct result of the science behind the gut microbiome, but available probiotics are only a piece of the puzzle. You see, we have over 2,000 species of bacteria in our gut and yet, there are only a few dozen strains available as probiotics today.
If high microbial diversity and richness are the keys to good gut health, then you can imagine how a few dozen strains simply aren’t enough.
Not to mention our gut microbiomes aren’t just made of bacteria. When we talk about a healthy gut we have to include archaea, fungi, yeast, bacteriophages, parasites, and RNA viruses. There is much more to the gut than simply “good and bad bacteria” – the microbiome functions as an ecosystem with all organisms impacting the function of one another.
So, when you read about “probiotics for brain health” or the “best probiotics for your mind,” the people making these recommendations have their hearts (or should we say guts!) in the right place – but they haven’t taken this concept to the next level. More research is needed to really understand which microbes, and which combination of microbes, will be most beneficial for your gut-brain connection.
Until then, it’s all about feeding the right microbes the right foods, so they can thrive in the complex ecosystem of your gut. When you’re eating the right nutrients for your microbiome, the health benefits are passed on to your brain.
How can you take control of your gut microbes and make them work in your favor? After all, they’ve been influencing us since the beginning of time – it’s our turn to take control!
First, you can get your gut biome tested. Some insurances cover the test itself and some don’t.
There are many tests available. At ShaMynds we use several well-known and respected labs to get a full understanding of what your gut looks like and if you have inflammation or a leaky gut. With the test, we can determine, down to a species level, which bacteria are healthy, which ones shouldn’t be there and which ones need immediate treatment.
Once you have this information, we work with you to start optimizing your gut microbiome for a healthier and stronger gut-brain connection.
If you want to dig deeper into the science behind this testing, we encourage you to check out Dr. Helen’s The Power of Precision Wellness video.
In this video you’ll learn:
- Why fad diets like the Paleo diet can be bad for some people
- How some probiotics pass right through you and are a complete waste of money
- How the fungal microbiome was largely overlooked until now
- Why certain “healthy” foods like spinach aren’t great for everyone
- How increasing microbial diversity means better overall health
- Why food must be personalized