Often times, a lot of people do not seem to realize the effect of the food we consume to our brains. Despite this, an increasing number of evidences have shown that there is indeed a link between the brain and the gut, often called the gut-brain axis.
Recently, studies on the relationship between the gut and the brain has its focus on the effects of the high increase in the intake of salt on the brain. Before now, there has been an existing link between high salt diet and high blood pressure, which of course makes the body vulnerable to other health problems.
The relationship between the brain and the gut has been the focus of many studies and research. It has been found that a disturbance to gut-brain axis has a connection with the increase tendency to be at risk of some diseases like the irritable bowel syndrome. Also, studies have shown that there is a clear connection between the intake of excessive amounts of salt and problems of the gut, which can also affect the brain. These studies show that excessive salt intake can alter the body’s immune system, putting the brain at the risk of falling prey to attacks carried out by the body’s immune system. Hence, one can say that the connection of the gut and brain is maintained through signalling of the immune system. Research has also shown that immune signals sent by the gut to the brain can cause damage to the blood vessels, consequently leading to brain damage as well as cognitive impairment.Studies also show that reducing the rate and amount of salt intake can help reduce the effects associated with excessive intake of salt.
These studies have therefore shown that the gut has a very clear link or relationship with the brain and disturbances to the gut can also affect the brain, hence, emphasising the fact what one consumes have an effect of the way the individual thinks.
Maintaining a Healthy Relationship between the Gut and the Brain
Having known that there is link between the gut and brain, it is important to know that consuming the wrong foods can pose a threat to a healthy brain. Therefore it is very important that we consume foods that help maintain the health of the gut-brain axis. Some of the foods which can help maintain a healthy gut-brain axis include the following:
Omega-3 fatty acids- The effects of omega-3 fatty acids to the brain can not be overemphasized. Sources of this fatty acid include nuts, tuna, salmon, seeds and also mackerel. Supplements can also be taken in absence of these sources. Fatty fish happens to be one of the important brain foods and is an important source of omega-3 fatty acid. Importance of this acid to the brain include the possibility of being able to reduce age related brain activity decline and also prevent some diseases like the Parkinson disease. It can also help in lifting one’s mood and boosting the memory.
Foods that have undergone fermentation- The microbes present in some fermented foods such as yogurt have been found to be of great benefit and importance to maintenance of a healthy gut.
Fiber- Consumption of fibers have been found to be of great help to the gut health. Sources of fibers include vegetables, fruits as well as whole grains. Pumpkin seeds have been found to contain antioxidants that can help in protecting the brain from free radical damage. They also contain nutrients that are necessary for ensuring brain health which includes magnesium, copper, zinc and iron.
Polyphenols- The consumption of foods rich in polyphenols can help in the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These foods include cocoa and green tea. The caffeine present in green tea and coffee helps in boosting brain functions. It helps in boosting alertness, improving focus and performance. Green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine that is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and it can help one relax by acting as a counteract to the activity stimulating effects of caffeine.
Nuts- Studies have shown that people who consume nuts regularly over the years have a sharper memory. Nuts is rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, which helps in maintaining a healthy brain-gut axis. Although all nuts help in boosting the brain, the walnut seems to have an added advantage as it also provides omega-3 fatty acid.
Foods that Are Detrimental to the Gut-Brain Axis
Having looked at foods that can help in maintaining a healthy gut-brain axis, it is necessary that we also know those foods which we consume that have negative effects on the gut-brain axis. These include:
1. Sugary Drinks- Consumption of sugary drinks have been known to be detrimental to health in general. It boost the risk of type 2 diabetes and also has been found to have negative effects on the brain. It can also increase the risk of dementia. A major constituent of most sugar drink is high-fructose corn syrup(HFCS), which has been considered dangerous and has been linked to brain inflammation and memory impairment.
2. Highly Processed Foods and Refined Carb
Highly processed food are high in added fats and sugar. Some of these foods are instant noodles, sweets and chips. They are usually very high in calories and can cause excess weight gain and also brain damage. They are capable of increasing brain inflammation, reducing memory and causing disruptions to the blood-brain barrier. Also, consumption of refined carbs such as white flour should be avoided.
Excessive consumption of alcohol have been found to have serious negative effects on the health of the brain. It has also been linked to some brain disorders such as Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which consequently leads to korsakoff’s syndrome.
In conclusion, the brain is the control center of the body and hence, it is very important that it is kept in good working condition at all times. The food we eat plays a major factor in determining the health of the brain.
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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR FOOD AND YOUR BRAIN: THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS