How to Boost Your Gut Microbiome Health to Boost Your Mental Health + Tips to Improve Your Digestion
...if the good bacteria in our gut cannot help break down our food, our brain's neurochemistry can be affected, while bad bacteria produce other chemicals that further impact our neurochemistry, which will, in turn, affect our overall ability to think well and our mood.
We all know what we eat affects our mood, and vice versa. Just think of popular phrases like "sick to my stomach" and "I have butterflies in my stomach": intuitively, we know that our gut and brain are closely connected, as I have mentioned multiple times in my blogs, on my podcast and in my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart. (Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels)
The gut microbiome, that is the world of bacteria living in our digestive system, doesn't just exist to help us break down food. There is a constant conversation going on between the brain and gut, which also has its own amazing neurons, just like the spinal cord! This relationship is incredibly important when it comes to our mental health, which is both directly and indirectly affected by what we eat.
I recently interviewed Wade Lightheart from BiOptimizers about how important our gut microbiome is for our mental health, and how we can use probiotics and better thinking and eating habits to improve our digestion and our lives.Wade's sister was diagnosed with cancer when he was a teenager, and, unfortunately, after a long struggle with the disease, she passed away at the age of 22. Having gone through that traumatic experience, Wade realized that life is not just a "given". There is so much that is uncertainty when it comes to our health (as Wade tragically learned at a young age), and it is imperative that we take every opportunity to improve our mental and physical health in order to make full use of every day we have on earth.
Wade's sister has given him a body building magazine during this time, which had a great impact on his life. He became passionate about building up his external appearance, and later chose to pursue a career in body-building and exercise physiology. However, after participating in the Mr. Universe contest, he battled with maintaining his physique, and gained 42 pounds of fat and water (and become, as he calls it, Mr. Marshmallow). Wade realized that although he had learnt how to build muscles and exercise, he has not been focusing on his internal health, which came at a cost after he stopped competing in bodybuilding competitions: his failing health affected his mood and his identity as an exercise champion. He had to learn, over time and with much effort, that it is important to focus on both our internal and external fitness if he wanted to live a truly fulfilling and happy life. And, after meeting a doctor who taught him how to build the body from the inside out, rather than just focusing on his external physique and looks, Wade decided to found his company, BiOptimizers, to help others also improve both their mental and physical wellbeing through improving gut microbiome and digestive system.
His company works on three main principles: assimilation, nutrification and bioptimization. We often make an assumption that if we eat something it is automatically converted to energy for energizing and building the brain and body, but this not always the case. There is a distinct digestive process that has to take place for our body to make use of what we eat, which has been dramatically affected by our modern, industrial diet (which I discuss in detail in my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart). Wade's company focuses on combating these digestive issues through not only focusing on what we eat, but how what we eat is assimilated, digested and used by our brains an body to help us realize the full potential of our mental and physical wellbeing. The team at BiOptimizers focus on helping people not only recover, but optimize the quality of their life by improving their overall health.
More and more research is highlighting the importance of the gut microbiome, and how it impacts our brain and body health. It is therefore incredibly important that we focus on improving our digestive system through a healthy diet, probiotics, digestive enzymes and so on, especially in today's world, where so much of what we eat provides processed, empty calories, and where more and more people are suffering from preventable lifestyle diseases. For instance, if the good bacteria in our gut cannot help break down our food, our brain's neurochemistry can be affected, while bad bacteria produce other chemicals that further impact our neurochemistry, which will, in turn, affect our overall ability to think well and our mood. In fact, most of our neurotransmitters are made in our gut, so if that is not healthy, our brain will really struggle! This is why it is so important we take a holistic approach to our mental and physical health, because everything is connected, as I discuss in depth in Think and Eat Yourself Smart.
As Wade notes, there are three main areas where we can improve our digestion to improve our mental and physical health:
1. Enzymes: as humans, we need enzymes to help us break down our food. They really are the difference between life and death! Proteolytic enzymes in particular are important, as they break down the proteins in our foods into absorbable amino acids, which are the building blocks of the brain and body, and are responsible for so many bodily functions. These should be a part of your everyday regimen, especially since so many of our modern foods have been compromised through production and overcooking. Thankfully, BiOptimizers has high-quality proteolytic enzymes available for purchase, which increase the bioavailability of your proteins and can help heal the brain and body. They also have other enzymes available, so check out their store. My readers can get a free bottle from BiOptimizers sent to their home by visiting p3om.com/leaffree with the code leaffreep3om.
2. Hydrochloric acid: either through aging or chronic dehydration we often do not have enough hydrochloric acid in our diet, which is critical for the removal of pathogens and our immune system, as well as the proper functioning of our digestive system and our mental health. BiOptimizers also has a great HCL supplement that can naturally help increase your hydrochloric acid levels and improve your digestive and immune systems.
3. Everyone is different: everybody's gut microbiome is slightly different, and it will change over time and with different ways of eating. This is one reason why different diets work for different people—there is no one "perfect" diet. However, it is crucial that we try maintain our gut microbiome health by avoiding highly processed or chemical-saturated food (such as conventional agriculture), as these can impact the health of our gut (I discuss this in detail in my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart) and eat as many natural, sustainable, wild, fresh and seasonal foods. It is also important to recognize that certain medications can impact the gut (such as antibiotics), which is why it is so important to take good-quality probiotics on a daily basis.
You can also get 20% off your order of BiOptimizers at www.bioptimizers.com/drleaf with the coupon code: DRLEAF20. Their products have really made a difference in our lives, and can make a big difference for you as well!
For my full interview with Wade and more on the gut microbiome and mental health, listen to this week's podcast.
We as a family also incorporate bone broth in our daily diet to help build up and strengthen our gut microbiome and improve our mental health. One of my favorite brands Kettle & Fire, which makes delicious, organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised nutritious broths and soups that my family just loves! Bone broth helps build up and strengthen the gut, as it is has collagen, amino acids and protein—the building blocks of the brain and body! And my readers can get up to 15% off their order and free shipping with the link provided here.
I am also a big fan of healthy, low sugar protein bars when I am travelling or on the go, which keep me satisfied, while helping me avoid eating foods that can damage my gut microbiome and impact my mental health. I especially love the keto protein bars from Keto Krisp, which are incredibly delicious, very filling and have just 4g of carbs! You can get up to 30% off your order on Amazon or their website with the code DRLEAFKETO at checkout.