Discussed in our previous post, that butterflies in the stomach feeling you get when you're nervous is your gut's reaction to the brain's fight or flight response. Your brain triggers a sudden release of hormones and your gut responds. Called the body's second brain, your gastro-intestinal tract contains millions of neurons that manage the functioning of your digestive system independent of your brain. While the gut can't create emotions, there seems to be a connection between our gut and the way we feel.
In the brain, serotonin, the feel good hormone, generates feelings of well-being. But the gut, which stores 95 percent of the body's serotonin supply, also uses this powerful neurotransmitter to defend the digestive system against invasion by hostile bacteria, inflammation, and other invaders. When our gastro-intestinal tract goes to war, we pay the price.
Tips for a Healthy Gut
If you want to keep your gut healthy, there are several things you can do:
- Exercise regularly at the Kendal at Oberlin pool and fitness center (open to all residents and Kendal at Home members) to keep the colon moving and maintain regularity.
- Control stress through mindful meditation, talk therapy, or yoga.
- Chew food thoroughly and slowly to make it easier to digest.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid overwhelming the digestive system.
- Include high-fiber foods in your diet. Consuming 50 grams of fiber a day can help maintain regularity.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Add a probiotic to your diet to maintain a healthy level of good bacteria. Look for supplements that contain five strains of bacteria and 5 billion CFU (colony-forming units). Always talk to your physician before taking new supplements.
- Monitor your output. While some foods and supplements can affect stool color, changes in the shape or color of your stool or in the frequency of elimination may indicate a medical condition. Report any changes to your healthcare professional.
If you want to begin a fitness routine that will help boost your digestive tract, as well as your brain health and overall wellbeing, download our free guide, Remaining Active: How to Begin a Regular Exercise Routine.