Updated: May 1
Brain fog, concentration issues, poor memory can be a major road block to doing the things you like or achieving your goals in life.
In our demanding modern life there are many factors interfering with your brain health. And this can happen at any age. But especially as you get older, you may become more susceptible to reduced mental performance or some form of cognitive decline. And the first thing you should think of when you get such symptoms, is your second brain.
Take care of your second brain first
Your gut is often referred to as your second brain. It's home to a complex network of nerve cells that are connected to the central nervous system. This gut-brain connection can have an impact on mental health and cognitive performance, making it important for you to take care of your gut if you want to keep your brain functioning at its best. Scientists today believe that a big part of our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut.
Your gut contains about 100'000 neurons. Neurons are cells of your nervous system that help it send messages. They use electricity and chemicals to send messages to different parts of the brain and to the rest of your body.
Gut bacteria make over 30 neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are like chemical words that help the neurons talk to each other. They are also referred to as the body’s chemical messengers. They are the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons, or from neurons to muscles.
As an example, one key neurotransmitter is serotonin. Serotonin is widely known as the happy molecule and for its influence on positive mood. Serotonin is also involved in functions such as sleep (precursor of melatonin hormone), memory, appetite, pain relief. Lower serotonin levels may lead to depression, anxiety, aggression, compulsive behaviours, aggression.
Did you know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut?
So when your gut is in chaos and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin is disrupted, you can imagine how clear thinking may become difficult. And this can have a detrimental impact on your overall mental wellbeing.
Another problem related to impaired gut health is that your gut lining may start to be damaged as well, which may lead to a "leaky gut" condition.
What is leaky gut? In healthy people, the gut lining is like a tight barrier that controls what gets from your gut into your bloodstream and what doesn't. But when your lining gets leaky, this means that little holes are forming. And this is then opening the path to allergens, undigested proteins, bacteria and bacterial toxins into the bloodstream that otherwise couldn't pass. In this case the body’s immune system will react with an inflammatory response leading to more inflammation.
But now the harmful components are in the blood stream and can now cause inflammation in any part of the body, including the brain.
And so the brain can get inflamed, negatively impacting brain function and over a longer period of time even leading to cognitive decline and all types of brain degenerative diseases like dementia.
5 simple things you can change today
Advanced lab testing of your microbiome is a fantastic diagnostic tool to test your gut health. Through this type of stool testing it's possible to detect signs of dysbiosis, which is when the good and bad bacteria in your gut are out of balance. Understanding the colonisation of your gut and the deficiencies in certain microbe colonies, makes it possible to help improve gut health through personalised nutrition protocols
Something you can do at home to get an indication for a possible imbalances in your gut is to test the pH of your stool with a pH measurement strip. Ideally the pH of your stool should be between 5.8 and 6.5. If your pH is outside that range, you know that you have a potential to improve gut health and overall health.
Anyone who knows or suspects having gut imbalances, can follow the 5 simple things below to start improving gut health.
1) Digestion starts in the mouth - start chewing again
Chewing on your food is one of the best ways to support your digestion and gut health. Chewing increases saliva production, which helps with breaking down food in your stomach and facilitates proper digestion. It's also been linked to improved gut microbiome diversity, including an increase in Akkermansia muciniphila, an important probiotic bacteria.
The bacteria in your gut get food from your saliva. When you chew, your body makes more saliva which helps break down the food in your stomach and helps the bacteria get what they need.
This only happens if you chew, so you need to train and learn how to chew again. I tell my clients to chew 40-50 times on one bite before swallowing.
2) Don't drink during meals
Drinking during meals can have a negative impact on your gut health. When you drink liquids with your food, the liquid takes up space in your stomach that would otherwise be used for digesting the food. This means that the digestive process is slowed down and incompletely digested food particles may enter the bloodstream through a leaky gut, leading to inflammation and other problems.
Additionally, drinking too much liquid can reduce acid production in the stomach which is needed to break down proteins and starches properly. All of this leads to an imbalance in bacteria, hormones and neurotransmitters which further affects digestion as well as brain function.
I generally recommend my clients to stop drinking 30 minutes before a meal and up to 45 minutes after a meal.
3) Drink 3 Liter a day
< write a paragraph about the benefits of hydration on gut health. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to support your gut health. Adequate hydration helps keep the mucosal lining of your intestines healthy, which in turn supports optimal nutrient absorption and digestion. Proper hydration also helps maintain a proper balance of electrolytes, which are essential for the proper functioning of cells throughout your body – including those in your digestive tract. Additionally, drinking enough water helps move food through the gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation, bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with poor digestion.
Hydration requirements are very individual and will vary depending on the activities and metabolism of individuals. Many of my clients don't recognise thirst but tend to grab something to eat when they actually should be hydrating.
A first step is to become conscious about your hydration habits by logging how much water or unsweetened tea you drink for a few days in a row. You can log in an App or on write down on a piece of paper.
Another good idea is to start your day with 2 glasses of water so you experience the good feeling right in the morning that goes with hydrating your body and brain.
Finally, bringing up your hydration by 20% for 7 days in a row can help you getting used to drinking more. Just doing this may help you experiencing the benefits on your own wellbeing of better hydration and therefore increase your motivation going forward.
4) Respect meal breaks
Meal breaks are an important part of gut health and can be beneficial for digestion and overall health. When we allow our bodies to take adequate meal breaks, it lets the digestive tract and microbiome take a break from processing food so they can focus on other functions. This break allows the body to more easily absorb nutrients, remove toxins, and reset the digestive tract. It also helps with regulating blood sugar levels and prevents overeating.
I generally recommend meal breaks of 3 to 4 hours to my clients.
5) Ditch gluten from your diet
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. For those with gluten sensitivities or intolerances, ingesting this protein can cause an immune response that leads to inflammation in the digestive system and eventually also leaky gut syndrome. Some people may not be aware of their gluten sensitivity and may not know that eating gluten may cause problems for their bodies.
Why not try to cut out gluten for 2 weeks and observe how your body reacts?
Give your brain a boost now
Overall, it is essential to take care of your gut health for optimal brain function. By following the above tips and tricks such as chewing, staying hydrated, respecting meal breaks and ditching gluten from your diet if necessary, you can start taking small steps to improve gut health and you can give yourself a powerful boost in cognitive performance.
Taking proper care of your digestive system will not only improve digestion but also help with overall wellbeing.
So why not start today on the path towards better mental clarity? You won't regret giving your body that extra bit of love!
If you are interested in learning how you can take your gut health and brain health to the next level, book a free consultation here.
(2) Mittal R, Debs LH, Patel AP, Nguyen D, Patel K, O'Connor G, Grati M, Mittal J, Yan D, Eshraghi AA, Deo SK, Daunert S, Liu XZ. Neurotransmitters: The Critical Modulators Regulating Gut-Brain Axis. J Cell Physiol. 2017 Sep;232(9):2359-2372. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25518. Epub 2017 Apr 10. PMID: 27512962; PMCID: PMC5772764.
(3) Terry N, Margolis KG. Serotonergic Mechanisms Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2017;239:319-342. doi: 10.1007/164_2016_103. PMID: 28035530; PMCID: PMC5526216.