by ICANS Editorial Team
More people than ever are aware of the central role the gut plays in the body’s ability to function optimally. The gut is often called “the second brain” due to the fact that there are 100 million neurons in the gut and nearly 2/3 of our neurotransmitters are made there. Not only does the gut impact mood, cognition, and energy levels, it has essential task of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling waste products in a timely fashion.
With all this going in the gut, it’s understandable that a lot can go wrong. Fortunately, there are simple actions you can take to improve GI function. This tip will highlight some of the most common ways gut function is impaired with strategies for solving them.
There are five primary functions of the gastrointestinal tract:
#1: Neuroendocrine: The gut produces hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate all aspects of human function. For example, nearly 90 percent of the body’s serotonin (the transmitter involved in mood and relaxation) is made in the gut. Hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism, such as CCK and ghrelin, are also made in the gut.
#2: Protective Barrier: The gut is made up of a single layer of cells that act as a protective barrier to all the toxins and waste products that pass through the body that must be eliminated.
#3: Digestion/Absorption: A properly functioning gut breaks down food efficiently, ensuring proper absorption of amino acids and other nutrients into the body.
#4: Elimination: The gut ensures that toxins and waste products are eliminated through urine and feces and not allowed to re-enter circulation.
#5: Maintain Your Ecosystem: The gut is colonized by billions of bacteria. For a healthy gut, you need to have a diverse gut ecosystem, with a greater proportion of beneficial bacteria.
It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to solving gut issues. Here are a few strategies you can adopt today:
Use intermittent fasting in which you eat during a preselected time frame each day (generally 6 to 12 hours) and fast for the rest of the time. Short fasts will improve gut motility, which is necessary for the migration of food through the gut.
Gargle with water. Gargling contracts the muscles in the throat, which activate the vagus nerve, stimulating the GI tract.
Use animal-derived digestive enzymes to improve digestion and absorption of animal proteins.
Use probiotics, rotating them every 6 weeks to ensure optimal diversity of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract.
Rotate your protein sources, getting as wide a variety as possible. Simply cooking proteins differently can help prevent gut problems.
Use supplemental fiber, either in the form of flax seeds or pectin. Fiber will increase detoxification and lower cancer risk, while also helping to moderate blood sugar.
Manage your stress. Elevated cortisol negatively impacts the intestinal lining of the gut, leading to increased intestinal permeability. Avoid forms of exercise that unnecessarily raise cortisol such as long duration cardio or high-intensity, high volume training.