Gut Feelings: The Astonishing Link between Digestive Health and Happiness

Your body’s systems all work together to create balance, so when one system goes off balance, it can result in a cascade of health problems. One system particularly responsible for optimal well-being is your digestive system, which relies on good bacteria and specialized immune cells to control the presence of bad bacteria or other harmful invaders. In fact, your digestive health directly impacts your immune health since 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is actually located in your digestive system.

Immune Health, Probiotics, and Mood

Your immune system is an essential part of digestive health. It is made up of cells, proteins, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body against bacteria, toxins, infections, and diseases. Gastrointestinal immune cells are a vital part of the lymphoid branch of immunity, which releases lymphocyte cells to attack harmful invaders.

In addition to specialized immune cells, your GI tract is home to various species of probiotics or good bacteria that help prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeasts, and parasites. Good bacteria are also critical for overall immunity, enhancing the function of Natural Killer immune cells and forming a barrier on the intestinal wall, serving as a powerful defense to prevent pathogens from being absorbed.

Recent research suggests that each person’s internal ecosystem of friendly bacteria is unique and can influence our neurology and mental states, including brain development during infancy. Additionally, studies show that microflora in the gut can influence behavior throughout our lives by inducing changes in the expression of specific genes that control brain and neurological function. Pre-clinical research has also shown that higher levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut can reduce anxiety, depression, and neurotic behavior, and even combat the effects of stress.

The Gut-Neuroendocrine System Connections

The neuroendocrine system also plays an essential role in digestive and overall health. Your gastrointestinal system is the most abundant source of regulatory neurotransmitters and neuropeptides outside the brain. Serotonin, one of the brain’s chemicals that influences mood, has its highest concentrations in the gut. Scientists and researchers are currently studying the numerous links between our nervous system, hormones, and immune system, observing these connections within the gastrointestinal system.

Many digestive-supporting herbs and supplements improve brain and neurological function, hormone balance, immune health, and more.

Natural Remedies

Supplements are especially important for digestive health, offering significant and relatively fast-acting support for components of your digestion that are not functioning optimally. Key nutrients for digestive and overall health include:

  • Probiotics and prebiotics
  • Zinc
  • Chinese cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger root
  • Fish oil
  • Proteolytic enzymes

Additional Tips for Improving Digestive Health and Well-Being

To further improve overall digestion for optimal health, consider incorporating the following tips:

  • Include an abundance of fiber in your diet from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Avoid processed foods, commercial meats, and trans-fats
  • Have your doctor test for food allergies and sensitivities
  • Refrain from eating for two to three hours before bedtime
  • Stay hydrated with filtered water and herbal teas
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress such as meditation, exercise, and laughter
  • Practice yoga to improve digestive function and reduce stress
  • Limit your use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, caffeine, and alcohol

The Gluten-Free Movement

If you have ongoing digestive or immune issues, you may have an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. Gluten-dense foods can interfere with digestive capacity and have also been found to contribute to inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, neurological and behavioral illness, skin diseases, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, and other degenerative conditions. Following a strict gluten-free diet for as little as a week or two may help clear up your symptoms dramatically, even if you test negative for gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Modern research is validating traditional healing systems’ claims that individual digestive ecosystems play a significant role in how we look, feel, think, and act. These connections between gut health, immune health, brain function, and overall well-being will continue to gain understanding as scientific findings continue to emerge. Listen to your gut for optimal health and wellness!