Last week’s column suggested we are minnows in the grand life adventure. This week we’ll look at little beings in our bellies that seem to have outsized influence. What is it about these microscopic components of the gut-brain connection that leads us to thinking that a postbiotic supplement might be a very good investment.
The gut microbiome is like a neighbourhood of friends you carry around in and on your body for your entire life. Just as the environment outside your body and the way you live your life have consequences for your well-being, this gooey world in your gut has enormous impact on your health, from head to toe and cradle to grave.
What exactly is it? The gut-brain microbiome refers to a bustling two-way street between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, fueled in part by the vast community of microorganisms residing in the gut.
In 1972, microbiologist Thomas Luckey estimated the human gut is home to 100 trillion microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more. They make mighty contributions to brain health. About 90-95% of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, is produced in the gut.
Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease have also been associated with alterations in the gut microbiota. How they work is being studied, but there seems to be a role in the progression of disease.
The gut microbiome, when working well, helps regulate the immune system too by distinguishing between harmful pathogens and beneficial microorganisms. When failing to perform, immune systems weaken, and inflammation goes unchecked.
Chronic inflammation could be a sign of an unhealthy gut microbiome. This kind of inflammation has been implicated in various diseases, including those affecting the brain.
Understanding this dynamic interplay between the gut and the brain is a rapidly evolving area of research, and there is still much to learn about the specifics of how the microbiome influences brain function and vice versa. However, it is increasingly clear that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health, including for mental and neurological health.
Here’s the interesting part. Unlike our lot as minnows in the great ocean of life, we can influence our body’s inner ocean with the right fuel to achieve a better balance in the microbiome.
A healthy gut will have ample communities of probiotics (healthy bacteria that convert fiber into beneficial compounds), prebiotics (a group of nutrients, mainly fiber, that feed these healthy bacteria), and postbiotics (bioactive compounds that offer important benefits to your body).
A healthy individual eating a diet that includes plenty of fiber and essential nutrients should enjoy a robust, well-functioning gut. But many people are kidding themselves as they consume foods high in animal proteins, sugar, salt, and saturated fat – just the ticket to punish gut bacteria and invite inflammation and chronic disorders.
Yet, as healthy food prices remain high, getting enough fiber and optimal nutrition is hard, even if you are trying to make the right choices. Is the cost of a supplement the right investment? If a boost to your microbiome gives you a better chance at reducing the risk of conditions like dementia, it’s money well spent.
Postbiotics are a relatively new option, offering targeted formulas that delivery more efficacy in achieving health benefits. Visit your local health food store and find out why experts recommend one product over another. Be sure to purchase from trusted sources offering products containing high quality natural ingredients backed by independent clinical studies.
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