Like the brain, the gut has countless amounts of neurons, so many that scientists are now calling the gut the “second brain”. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist whose expertise includes gluten issues, brain health and nutrition, and preventing neurodegenerative disorders, “this ‘second brain’ not only regulates muscle function, immune cells, and hormones, but also manufactures several neurotransmitters, like serotonin (the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter).” Why is this information so important? Perhaps, for the same reason the National Institute of Mental Health spent more than $1 million on a research program to study the connection between gut flora and the brain. The gut appears to be the place of thought including the emotions, which means it could possibly affect our physical, mental and spiritual state–our entire being.

How our gut affects us physically

Based on our last article on Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease, we know that the gut environment is important for good health in order to prevent diseases. Some foods that keep the environment of the gut healthy are listed below:

  1. Foods rich in probiotics: live-probiotics, kefir, kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles
  2. Good carbs (mainly fibrous vegetables) and high quality fats (such as olive oil, nuts)
  3. Dark chocolate, coffee, wine (in moderation) and tea (to your heart’s content)
  4. Foods rich in prebiotics: raw garlic, cooked and raw onions, leeks, jicama
  5. Filtered water

These foods help to maintain and boost healthy gut bacteria and to heal a leaky gut or a “leaky brain” caused by pathogenic bacteria, some medications, stress, environmental toxins, elevated blood sugar, and potentially aggravating foods like gluten.

How our gut affects us mentally

Food plays a key factor in creating a healthy gut because it is in the belly where several neurotransmitters are produced. These neurotransmitters impact our emotional and mental state. Yes, you read it correctly: neurotransmitters that are manufactured in the gut. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin. “An estimated 80 to 90 percent of serotonin ‘the master happiness molecule’ is made in the gut,” says Perlmutter. This means the gut makes more serotonin than the brain in our head.

In fact, in an article called “Healthy Gut Healthy Brain,” Perlmutter says, “Many neurologists and psychiatrists are now realizing that this may be one reason antidepressants are often less effective in treating depression than proper dietary changes.”

Another neurotransmitter produced in the gut is GABA. This amino acid is responsible for calming the body down, especially after being stressed or excited. Glutamate, another neurotransmitter, is involved in cognition, learning and memory.

How our gut affects us spiritually

How interesting that in the ancient Hebrew the word “belly” referred to as ‘beten’ is used figuratively to express the various activities of these neurotransmitters. In Job 20:20, “belly” is used figuratively as the seat of passion (feeling/heart). In Proverbs 22:18, the word is used metaphorically as the seat of intellect and faculties. But moreover in Proverbs 18:8 and Proverbs 20:27, it is used to refer to the inner most part of a person (soul) and from which the “living waters”-The Holy Spirit flows through (John 7:38).

If there is a link between our gut and spirituality as well, that means proper nutrition is important to our entire being. Many of us ‘get’ the importance of healthy foods as it relates to our physical and mental well being, but few of us make the connection to our spiritual state unless we participate in a religious fast and even then we may not be aware. Healthy foods, particularly “living foods,” contain life and thus energy. They aid and support our whole being to carry out certain activities whether physical, mental or spiritual. They provide an unobstructed path for us to flow with ease creatively, spiritually, prayerfully, intellectually, mindfully and physically.

As believers, we all know too well the scripture that alludes to our body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is our stewardship, therefore, to create the environment to facilitate the Holy Spirit not block or hinder it by choosing the right foods including healthy thoughts that nourish us as well. Perhaps, then, the fruit of the spirit would become more evident in our lives: “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Reference:

Perlmutter, David. “Healthy Gut Healthy Brain,” Experience Life, September 2015, p. 54-59.

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