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Gut Health and Its Link to the Brain

You may have noticed a recent influx of talk about a healthy gut – no this isn’t referring to your actual waistline. Your gut is a mix of bacteria inside your intestines called microbiota. Your microbiota, similar to your fingerprint, is completely unique to you. Researchers are now learning that gut health is linked to almost everything relating to the health of our bodies.

How does the gut affect the brain?

The gut is packed with nerve endings that directly link to the brain – this is called the gut-brain axis. A disruption in the health of our gut is now being linked to not only physical health issues like diabetes and cancer, but also to that of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia through the gut-brain axis. Bad gut bacteria essentially “leaks” through these nerve endings to the brain, causing neuropathic disruptions. This study is still very new and few controlled tests have been done to prove this idea.

What does a healthy gut look like?

A healthy gut is made up of a very diverse and numerous bacteria types. The more bacteria your gut has, the more effective it will be at properly digesting foods and fighting off diseases and bad bacteria.

How does one achieve a healthy gut?

Achieving a healthy microbiota can be done by eating a diverse range of foods.

  • Generally speaking, eating naturally colorful foods (fruits and vegetables) is always a good place to start.
  • Eat fermented foods because the cultures in these foods will add to the diversity of your microbiota – just be mindful of the amount of sugars in a lot of fermented foods (like yogurt and Kombucha). Sugar will feed the bad bacteria in your gut, causing an imbalance in healthy gut flora. The same is true for artificial sweeteners.
  • Eat prebiotic foods. These foods mostly consist of complex carbs and high fiber foods that take your body longer to digest.
  • Eat foods rich in polyphenols like dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, and blueberries.

Luckily, access to clean, colorful food is easy in the Charleston tri-county area with two Whole Foods locations in Mount Pleasant and West Ashley, as well as a Trader Joes in Mount Pleasant. Grocery stores like Publix and Harris Teeter also carry a plethora of colorful food options and fermented foods.

As always, Senior Helpers Charleston is available to help with grocery shopping and any other needs your senior loved ones may need assistance with.