There's not much we can do to change our human genome; however, each of us also has a complex collection of bacteria living in our guts — our distinct microbiome — that also has genes. And THOSE genes we can maneuver in any way we want to go as far as affecting our mental and emotional health.
The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health, Stanford University scientists Justin and Erica Sonnenburg write:
"Since there is much we can do to shape the environment within our guts, we have control over our microbiota and can compensate for the lack of control we have over our human genome. Our microbiome contains one hundred times more genes than our human genome, so in fact there is about 99 percent of associated genetic material that we have the potential to mold in ways that are beneficial to us."
Here is a list of the top 8 ways to start your rode to better gut and mood health:
1. Cut Out Sugar and Processed Foods
Monosaccharides, the simplest carbohydrates containing a single molecule of glucose and fructose, disrupt a healthy microbial balance because they are digested very easily by us and absorbed into our small intestine without any help from our microbes. That leaves our gut bugs hungry, with nothing to munch on, so they begin nibbling on the mucus lining of our intestines — which is meant to be a strong barrier between the gut and the rest of the body.
When the wall of the intestine is permeated, particles of food enter the bloodstream, and our immune system alerts our brain and other organs to the attack, causing inflammation in various parts of our body. Sugar also feeds organisms like Candida Albican, a kind of fungus that grows in the stomach and attacks the intestine wall.
They need carbon-based compounds (sugars) to multiply, and when they do, people will start asking you if you’re pregnant.
2. Eat More Plants and Dietary Fiber
By eating more green leafy vegetables, we achieve and maintain microbiota diversity - which leads to a clearer mind and happier disposition. Just as sugar is processed too easily and therefore starves our microbes, dietary fiber gives the microbes in our stomach's plenty to eat. Consuming plenty of microbiota accessible carbohydrates will not only keep our intestinal lining intact, but it will also help us sustain a more varied collection of bacteria, which is paramount to good health.
3. Get Dirty
Limiting your exposure to the elements can reduce the ability of your body being able to create good bacteria to fight things off. You essentially make yourself weaker.
4. Take a Probiotic
In an April 2015 study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, researchers in the Netherlands provided a multispecies probiotic to 20 healthy individuals without mood disorders for a four-week period, and a placebo to 20 other participants. According to the abstract:
Compared to participants who received the placebo intervention, participants who received the four-week multispecies probiotics intervention showed a significantly reduced overall cognitive reactivity to sad mood, which was largely accounted for by reduced rumination and aggressive thoughts.
Seek probiotics that contain the following species: Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis (B. animalis), and Bifidobacterium longum.
5. Try Fermented Foods
Fermented food is the best kind of probiotic you can feed your gut, because it typically provides a broad combination of bacteria.
One of the easiest, most common fermented products is yogurt, but make sure it is unsweetened). Other examples are kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha tea.
6. Lower Stress
When you feel stressed, your body will discharge natural steroids and adrenaline, and your immune system will release inflammatory cytokines. This happens whether the threat is physically real or not.
7. Get Consistent Sleep
When cortisol levels go up in the morning, the gut bacteria inhibit production of cytokines, and this shift defines the transition between non-REM and REM sleep. Hence, disruption of the gut bacteria can have significant negative effects on sleep and circadian rhythms. Balance the gut, break through insomnia.
Exercise induces changes in the gut microbiota that are different than, say, diet. Several physiological changes that result from exercise, such as increasing intestinal transit time (or flow rate) through the gut, influencing metabolism, and altering immune function, are known to affect the microbiota.