4 Easy Ways To Boost Your Gut Bacteria (And Why You'd Even Want To In The First Place)
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The small intestine contains as many neurons as the spinal cord, and it produces all the same chemicals as the brain. In fact, the brain and gut are so tightly wired together, scientists sometimes refer to the gut as the body's "second brain."
The microbiome revolution of the past few years has made it clear that the "gut-brain axis" is a two-way street. The gut isn't just sending progress reports on the mechanics of digestion. Gut bacteria are directly affecting how we think and feel.
Researchers at Canada's McMaster University transferred gut bacteria from gregarious mice into timid, fearful mice, who—lo and behold—became much bolder. In another experiment, rat pups with high levels of stress hormones after being separated from their mothers, calmed down after being fed probiotic bacteria commonly found in yogurt.
"[Gut] bacteria are mind-altering microorganisms," says Mark Lyte, a microbiome researcher at Texas Tech. Science is adding a whole new dimension to the old line, "You are what you eat." (Here's more on how your gut bacteria could be making you fat.)
To improve your brain-gut connection and reap the rewards of weight loss, increased energy and better mood, do these 4 things:
Eat more "live culture" or probiotic yogurt
A recent UCLA study showed you could change the way a person's brain works by influencing the composition of the bacteria in the gut just slightly. The study looked at eating probiotic yogurt twice a day for 4 weeks. Women who ate yogurt exhibited changes in the way their brains lit up on a MRI scan compared to those who did not. There were subtle differences in the way the brains processed sensory information and emotion.
Shift from animal to vegetable
In a 2014 study published in the journalNature, the composition of the gut microbiome changed dramatically within 4 days of subjects switching from a diet of all animal products to a vegetarian one, and vice versa. (These 13 delicious vegetarian dinners will get you started.)
Stress hormones [e.g., cortisol] controlled by the brain can influence how gut bacteria affect the production of hormones and neurochemicals that speak to the brain, including ones that influence appetite.
Don't overuse antibiotics
According to some estimates, half of the antibiotics we consume are unnecessary or useless and are one of the prime causes of the depletion of the helpful bacteria in the American gut. It's like bombing your backyard with toxic chemicals.
Video: GUT HEALTH: THE BASICS | Nutrition 101 Ep. 7
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