The human body is an organic machine containing around 10 trillion cells. Your digestive tract contains around 100 trillion bacteria and fungi, or about 3 pounds worth.
That's TEN TIMES the amount of cells that make up your body.
Maintaining proper gut flora balance is essential in living a healthy lifestyle. Scientists don't refer to the gut as your "second brain" for no reason. So many things are dependent on proper gut health including immune system health and digestive function, but in this article I'm going to focus more on the effects on your brain.
Have you ever been hungry, but repulsed at the thought of eating a healthy meal? Where the only thing you want is some greasy fast food, pizza, ice cream or a giant pile of sugar? Or maybe after eating a huge meal and feeling full, you still have room for another slice of pumpkin pie? Of course you have, we all have. Did you know that these cravings are not entirely coming from your brain?
Gut bacteria help determine what kind of cravings you have.
There's a reason why I titled this: The Voices in your Gut.
When you have an imbalance of gut flora, when bad bacteria have basically taken over your gut, you become a vessel for their diet, not just yours. Most bad types of bacteria feed on sugars and will let your brain know when they are hungry for more.
Gut bacteria imbalance will do more than just cause you to crave bad foods. Most Seratonin produced in your body is produced in your gut, not your brain. And by most I mean around 90% of it.
Not only does Seratonin affect your appetite and digestion, it affects your mood and social behavior. A deficiency in Seratonin is one of the major causes of depression. Too much bad bacteria in your gut will literally make you not want to get out of bed in the morning.
Bad gut health can help contribute to depression.
Your immune system is also tied to gut health. When bad bacteria occupies too much real estate in your gut, you get food poisoning. So if you have some bad sushi and you end up with food poisoning, its because your immune system was already weakened through bad eating habits and didn't have the power to fight off whatever bug you just ingested. Imbalance also leads to increased frequency of sickness as well as an overgrowth of yeast, which can cause a whole other host of serious health problems. Yuck.
So what can you do to optimize your gut health?
1. Include Dense Sources of Probiotics.
Implementing these foods in your diet will improve the health of your gut biome:
Greek Yogurt (look for "live and active cultures" on the food label)
Sour Dough Bread
Acidophilus Milk or Buttermilk
Anything else that's fermented including beer and wine
2. Enemies of Optimal Gut Health
If you absolutely need to ingest any of these, be sure to include some of the foods mentioned above to help maintain balance of your gut health.
3. Feeding Good Bacteria
In the paragraphs above I talked about cravings based on what bad bacteria like to eat. So what can you do to set up a good gut environment for your probiotics aka good bacteria?
So that's it. Maintaining proper gut health is one of the ultimate keys and overlooked components of overall fitness. It is absolutely essential for dialing in healthy cravings and keeping you mentally sharp. Now go fix your gut and get your goals!