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Our Brain, Our Food, Our Sanity!

Have you ever thought to yourself that everyone is going crazy! I used to believe it was because we lived under constant stress (and that is a huge piece we will cover another time). Truly, some people just don’t handle stress very well. I also noticed that people who lack faith in something greater than themselves are easily overwhelmed and hopeless. However, it is much more than that. As I have studied how food feeds our physiology, I have found that “crazy” generally appears more often when our food disrupts the flow and the function of our body… when it signals or stresses the body from within! Food is simply a messenger – it sends signals to the cells of the body. We communicate either good or bad signals with everything we ingest. Food either heals or it harms!

Some foods stand out as non-negotiables for those wanting to thrive: refined sugar, GMO wheat, food coloring, dairy laden with antibiotics and hormones as well as meats treated with antibiotics or nitrates which all cause dysbiosis (imbalance of the intestinal microbiota).

Our gut microbiome is the key to our mental and emotional health; it's literally called our second brain for this reason. It’s made up of 100 trillion bacterial cells. Antibiotics and glyphosates in our food destroy these bacteria and throw off the delicate balance. They also create superbugs that threaten human health and cause drug resistance.

We have around 37 trillion human cells in our bodies and over 100 trillion bacterial cells meaning we are, technically, more bacterial than human. Why is this important? Bacteria rule and research indicates we are more at their mercy than we’d like to believe. Research continues to explore this vast system and has found evidence that these large colonies communicate extensively and that bacteria can affect the host’s appetite or mood. Our gut houses the majority of these bacterial colonies and is the location wherein 80% of our immune system lies. Gut bacteria also produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes like learning, memory and mood. One example is seratonin. Gut bacteria manufacture about 95% of the body’s seratonin supply which influences mood and GI activity. Have you ever wondered why your kids go crazy after eating a piece of cake or why you can’t focus after an unhealthy meal or get angry when you haven’t had sugar in a while? Now you know.

It’s amazing how our understanding of bacteria has evolved over the past 20 years. James Shapiro, a bacterial geneticist at the University of Chicago is not afraid of bold hypotheses: he has argued that bacterial colonies might be capable of a form of cognition. They now know that bacterial colonies can communicate with each other and share nutrients. If the instinct of bacteria is to survive at all costs, then listening to our gut instincts may lead us to feeding a “beast within” us rather than leading us toward the peace and health we desire. To eat foods that restore your gut and feed the beneficial bacteria while quelling the bad will have a direct impact on your mood and your sanity!

Avoid foods treated with antibiotics, nitrates, food coloring, preservatives and pesticides. Avoid over the counter drugs, refined sugar and alcohol.

Feed your gut sauerkraut, kefir, non-dairy yogurt or organic yogurt, probiotics, kimchi, fiber rich foods (soluble and insoluble), tempeh, miso and sourdough. Prebiotic foods like onions, asparagus, dandelion, artichoke, leeks, garlic, banana, chicory and yacon help beneficial bacteria.

To improve digestion, eat slowly, chew your food, reduce processed foods, drink water and don’t overeat.

One hack I love to use is green banana flour (a superfood for the gut). Bake with it, add it to oatmeal or put it in your smoothies for added fiber. It’s a wonderful resistant starch that won’t spike insulin or sabotage weight loss efforts.

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