If you’ve ever “gone with your gut” to make a decision or felt “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source — your second brain.
Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.
You’d be fooling yourself if you thought the only benefit a healthy stomach offers is good digestion. Research is pouring in each day on the immediate benefits your ENTIRE health can receive from a healthy gut.
Here are 5 ways your overall health can be improved by having a healthy gut.
1. Decrease Anxiety and Depression
The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) or your second brain may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by individuals coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach discomforts.
“For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” said Jay Pasricha, MD, director of the John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology.
Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
“These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.”
2. Improved Sleep
Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? However, as much as you would love to get some well-deserved shut eye, you may be experiencing difficulties falling asleep.
There’s a handful of reasons why that might be, but have you ever considered your gut health as a culprit?
The various studies professionals have conducted point to the connection of a healthy gut leading to better sleep.
The health of your digestive tract can influence your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In one study, 83% of adults diagnosed with sleep apnea also had gastrointestinal tract concerns.
3. Weight Management
If you’re constantly in a battle to lose a few extra pounds, you’re in good company. There are THOUSANDS of companies who promote gym memberships, special diets, and the latest supplement to shed off your unwanted weight.
While many of these are good in nature, perhaps the secret to your success lies within your gut.
In a recent study, researchers recruited 125 overweight individuals. The subjects underwent a 12-week weight-loss diet, followed by a 12-week period aimed at maintaining body weight. Throughout the entire study, half the participants swallowed 2 pills daily containing probiotics (healthy bacteria for your gut) while the other half received a placebo.
After the 12-week diet period, researchers observed an average weight loss of 9.7 pounds n the probiotic group and 5.7 pounds in the placebo group.
After the 12-week maintenance period, the weight of those in the placebo group had remained stable but the probiotic group had continued to lose weight, for a total of 11.4 pounds per person.
In short, women consuming probiotics lost twice as much weight over the 24-week period of the study. Researchers also noted a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in this group, as well as a lower overall concentration of the intestinal bacteria related to obesity.
4. Better Immune System
Your immune system is always on alert, always ready to fight any intruders. Whether it’s a cold or the latest stomach bug, your immune system tries to diminish the effects these unwanted visitors may bring.
The majority of the body’s immune cells are housed in the gut, which makes a healthy gut the perfect line of defense against toxins and “bad” bacteria.
Microbes are microorganisms houses in your gut that work together to keep you healthy. The microbes in your intestines warn the rest of your immune system by sending out signals to the rest of the body to fight the intruders.
5. Natural Energy Boost
There’s a more natural way to receive an energy boost than Red Bull. Believe it or not, when your gut is healthy, you’re likely to have an increase in energy.
When your body is absorbing nutrients and ridding itself of toxins more effectively, it stands to reason that you will feel an overall improvement in your energy level. But this is also supported by science, which has shown us that probiotics can be an effective way to fight fatigue—particularly chronic fatigue.
The Epstein-Barr virus is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, and studies have shown that interferon, a type of protein your body makes in response to the presence of a pathogen, keep the virus in check in healthy individuals. A healthy gut can become very effective tool for managing problems involving chronic fatigue.
In short, your gut does much, MUCH more than simply digest foods. When healthy, your gut can help you live a healthier, happier life.
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