MINDSHIFT Foods + The Microbiome
By: Dr. Yashar Khosroshahi, ND
The infamous saying, “You are what you eat”, is not the entire truth. The more accurate saying is, “You are the sum of all your gut bacteria.” Though not as catchy, and perhaps a little off putting for some, this is what the latest science is teaching us.
The gut bacteria, or the gut microbiome, which is now being referred to as the “second brain”, is host to thousands of different types of bacteria. We are learning that there is very little that happens in the body that the microbiome does not directly impact. These bacteria play a crucial role in your mental, emotional, and physical health. They are responsible for producing and transporting vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids throughout the body. That is why scientists have begun paying a lot more attention to the microbiome and its effects on the rest of the body. This tremendous interest has lead to the creation of the International Human Microbiome Consortium.
In this blog, I will be focusing on the gut-brain connection and some of the most important brain chemicals that are produced in the gut, and the foods that best support a healthy microbiome. These factors are crucial for optimizing productivity and performance to help you do better, by thinking better.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The gut microbiome is referred to as the “second brain”. This is because of all the information it is providing to the brain and how this information determines brain function. There are a couple of factors that play a role in the gut’s ability to influence brain function. One of these very fascinating reasons is that the gut produces neurochemicals – brain chemical messengers. Let’s look at some of these messengers more closely.
- Serotonin: Responsible for managing mood, motivation, and willpower. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
- Dopamine: Responsible for managing movement, cognition, pleasure/reward circuits and mood. It is estimated that the gut tissue produce close to half of the dopamine formed in the body.
- Melatonin: Responsible for enhancing sleep quality. It is estimated that the gut contains at least 400 times more melatonin than the brain.
- Other notable neurochemicals that are produced in the gut include; GABA, responsible for increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety, and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), responsible for supporting the survival of existing brain cells, and encouraging the growth and differentiation of new brain cells and new brain connections.
At this point, it is becoming fairly clear that without a healthy gut microbiome it would be pretty challenging to produce your best work. Now, let’s look at how you can start fueling your body and brain the right way.
Get In My Belly!
Here are 3 ways to support your gut microbiome to make sure it is helping you optimize your brain function.
Fermented foods provide a natural variety of bacteria for your gut to thrive off of. Try these “live” foods:
- Kombucha Tea
- Pickled fruits and vegetables
Prebiotic fibre feed your microbiome a healthy non-digestible fibre. These following foods have the highest amounts of prebiotic fibre, and are usually best if eaten raw:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Dandelion greens
- Wheat bran
- Onions (raw or cooked)
- Legumes (cooked)
Avoid/restrict the following type of foods to keep your microbiome healthy. All these foods have been demonstrated to destroy and alter healthy gut bacteria.
- Processed, sugary and artificially sweetened foods.
Other notable foods that help ignite brain function are; coffee, blueberries, walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate, fish oil, ghee, and coconut oil.
Next time you want to produce your best work and optimize productivity, make sure to feed your gut microbiome the right foods so you can do better, by thinking better.
- Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life
- Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity
- Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being
- That Gut Feeling