Gut-Brain Connection: The Importance of Healthy Gut Bacteria for Brain Health

In the fields of Psychiatry, a healthy gut and gut microbiome is of critical importance for healthy neurotransmitter production and function. Thanks to new research over the last several years we now know that microbial diversity is incredibly important. It is similar to a rain forest in that the health of a rainforest is typically measured by the amount of biodiversity within that ecosystem. Generally, the more plants and animals that are thriving in that ecosystem, the better.  Our gut ecosystem is similar.  By having a broader diversity of bacteria in the gut, this is better for our health. An imbalance of lack of diversity can be associated with cancer, mental health conditions, obesity autoimmune disease and many more. Imbalance in gut bacteria creates space for certain species to over populate which affects the gut-brain axis and leads to dysfunction and disease. The gut microbiome specifically impacts brain health in a variety of ways. A large percentage of the neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gut and the microbiome is actually responsible for stimulating the cells to produce the seretonin. An imbalance in gut bacteria can also lead to increased inflammation which can cause poor mental function and affect mood. Cultivating and maintaing a healthy gut is vital for brain health and can be done through proper diet, exercise and supplementation as needed. 

A diet of fermented foods, fibers, fruits and vegetables can all increase the beneficial healthy bacteria. Avoiding added sugars or artificial sweetners can also help to improve the gut microbiome.  

In addition to adding certain foods into our diet to promote a healthy microbiome, it is also important to eliminate exposure to certain toxins that can harm our microbiome. Our environment is increasing with more chemicals that can hurt our gut microbiome. Certain pesticides and herbicides in the environment can actually behave like antibiotics wiping out the healthy microbial flora so important for the delicate balance of our microbiome and overall health and wellbeing. The challenge with certain antibiotic mimicking herbicides is that not all strains are treated equally. For example, it is more deadly to certain strains such as Bifidum and less deadly to more pathogenic strains such as Clostridium Difficile.  This can be problematic because it creates conditions for C. Difficile can start growing in an unhealthy manner. In order to minimize the negative effects of pesticides and herbicides on the microbiome, make sure all fruits and vegetables and thoroughly cleaned before eating. Furthermore, eat organic produce whenever possible.

A good quality probiotic may also be beneficial in helping to support or restore a healthy microbiome in the gut. Probiotics can contain a variety of different strains and each strain is specific to certain functions or symptoms of digestive health. For example Lactobacillus rhamnosus may help to improve constipation whereas Bifidobacterium bifidum can help to stimulate the immune system in the gut and reduce inflammation. Typically when choosing a probiotic it is important to select one with a wide variety of strains to provide a diverse microbiome. 

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