Looking After Your Second Brain
The gut is often referred to as the second brain. This is where our enteric nervous system is found, which acts as the digestive brain and is responsible for controlling digestive function as well as containing millions of neurotransmitters. 95% of serotonin is found in the gut. This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating mood, sleep and digestion, amongst many other things.
Our gut also contains bacteria - both good and bad - that make up part of our immune system and also play a role in producing vitamins and hormones that are essential for our survival. Ensuring we have a healthy digestive system also means we are better able to absorb nutrients from the food we eat.
As our gut is much more than where our food goes to be digested, it makes sense that we look after it and do what we can to help it function optimally.
How can we help heal our gut?
- Reduce stress levels where possible. Stress can have a negative effect on the good bacteria in the gut. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and ensuring we get enough sleep are some of the many ways we can try to manage stress.
- Consume less sugar. Too much sugar in the diet can cause an imbalance in gut bacteria, as the “bad” bacteria feed on sugar, which could then impact immunity and nutrient production and absorption.
- Eat probiotic foods to increase the levels of beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and miso are some examples of probiotic foods.
- Increase fibre in the diet. Prebiotic foods are foods high in fibre; which is what probiotics feed on. Including more prebiotic foods will encourage the beneficial gut bacteria to multiply. Whole grains, onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes are some examples of prebiotic-rich foods.
Why not try this prebiotic-boosting soup? It is quick and easy and is a fantastic way of improving your gut health.
Jerusalem artichoke soup (4 servings)
- Sautee 1 chopped onion, 2-3 finely chopped cloves of garlic and a pinch of sea salt in a saucepan until soft.
- Add around 2lb of peeled and diced Jerusalem artichokes and cover with 34 fl oz of stock. (Chicken or vegetable stock is fine).
- Simmer on a low heat until the Jerusalem artichokes soften and break down – this should take approximately an hour.
- Puree the soup and season with black pepper and salt to taste.
- Enjoy with a couple of slices of rye or sourdough bread on the side.
Disclaimer: The content of this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. References available on request.