Tuning into your Gut Instinct: 3 Tips to Optimize our Second Brain

As working moms, we know all too well what the “gut instinct” is. Even when all practical sources are telling us otherwise, we know when our kids are really sick and needing medical attention or when they are making up symptoms to appease an ulterior motive. Food scientists are now calling the gut “our second brain,” as it comprises over one hundred milion neurons, more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system combined.

What many of us might not be aware of, is the actual brain gut connection.  When we skip a meal, we feel foggy brained. When we are about to speak in front of a group or maybe perform in an athletic event, we get anxious and feel “butterflies in our stomach.” I don’t know how many times before running a race where I would have to hit the Port a Potty three times in the 30 minutes beforehand! This is due to the highly used term “fight or flight response.” The brain and gut are connected by the vagus nerve, which is basically a one way information highway. When we are stressed, we suppress activity of this vagus nerve and the blood that ideally would be going to our digestive and reproductive organs, goes instead to our brains.

Did you know? 

The gut produces 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood, appetite and overall well-being?

When there is imbalance in the good and bad bacteria of the gut, symptoms can manifest as frequent infections, chronic stress, insomnia, allergies, inflammation, even cancer?

The hot term in the press – “Leaky Gut” – is due to shifts in intestinal permeability where certain proteins like gluten (found in most breads) and casein (found in dairy) actually create openings in the gut lining?

Basically everyone has experienced some gut symptoms in one way, shape or form whether it be in overt gastrointestinal issues or in mood shifts. It wears down on you over years and is not something that is always visibly apparent to yourself or others. When off kilter, gut health can wreak havoc on your psychology, can leave you helpless, and ashamed. 

Good news! Restoring your gut health is REVERSIBLE

Here are three tips that you can institute NOW to help optimize your gut health: 

Eliminate gluten and dairy from your diet for a 30 day gut “reset” and keep a log of any change in symptoms. Be aware that soy sauce, baking soda and other lesser known foods can also contain gluten. Remember to log mood changes and sleep patterns in addition to any obvious gastrointestinal symptoms.

Include probiotics in your diet to help optimize the good bacteria — some examples are kombucha, flax seed, miso, and sauerkraut.

Get good sleep. This is a hard one especially for us highly driven moms who always feel like there’s more to be done in the day. Schedule a regular wind down activity before bed, and set a goal for your head to hit the pillow before 10pm if possible for optimum growth and circadian health. 

Poor gut health is a “silent killer,” as we often don’t see overt symptoms until it is much harder to reverse. Many people go to their medical doctor when a symptom has arisen, they get treated for their particular symptom, and they unfortunately stay sick. When we realize that gut health is more a functional issue not a medical issue we can start to address it systematically and really get better. Once we are not plagued by moodiness and poor immune function due to gut imbalance or “dysbiosis”, we are happier and more balanced, and can start to create a ripple affect to our children by living by example.

What are you waiting for? Get going on that gut instinct! 

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veena somani md

integrative  lifestyle  coach