Did you know that you have more bacteria in your body than cells?
It’s true! Researchers estimate that while you have ten trillion cells – you have upwards of 100 trillion bacteria inside you.
Don’t worry though, most of those bacteria are our friends – they help us, and we help them. It’s an amazingly symbiotic relationship with massive implications for your health, energy levels, digestion, beauty and much more.
What’s more, all this bacteria “partners” with neurons in our intestinal tract to create a “second brain” that is every bit as important as the brain between your ears.
That’s what today’s blog post is all about.
The “Second Brain” We All Know and Trust
We’re all familiar with phrases like “go with your gut”… “my gut feeling”… or “butterflies in my stomach”… all of which touch upon this mysterious brain-gut connection.
It turns out, science is beginning to uncover more and more about this connection and how it is much greater than we ever imagined.
For starters, it has become clear there is a network of neurons lining our guts – and this massive amount of neural tissue is filled with important neurotransmitters that do more than control digestion or cause us to feel butterflies.
This second brain influences our emotions, our mental state and even our risk for certain diseases later in life.
Technically, this neural network that exists in our tummies is referred to as the “enteric nervous system,” and is filled with sheaths containing some 100 million neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut.
All these neurons in our gut helps us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and its contents. This is how we can be so aware of how our body is responding to food, because we have neurons in that area which can literally feel digestion happening. Everything — from the breaking down of food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires intestinal activity that our gut cells can sense and feel.
Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) says “A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut.”
And according to an article in Scientific American:
The enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels. Because antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels, it’s little wonder that meds meant to cause chemical changes in the mind often provoke GI issues as a side effect.
U.C.L.A.’s Mayer is doing work on how the trillions of bacteria in the gut “communicate” with enteric nervous system cells (which they greatly outnumber). His work with the gut’s nervous system has led him to think that in coming years psychiatry will need to expand to treat the second brain in addition to the one atop the shoulders.
Bacteria – The Missing Link
More and more, it’s becoming clear that the abundance of bacteria in our gut work with this collection of neurons to send signals back and forth between our brains and tummies.
In fact, Mark Lyte, in a 2011 BioEssays paper, proposed a neurochemical “delivery system” by which gut bacteria, such as probiotics, can send messages to the brain.
Gut bacteria both produce and respond to the same neurochemicals—such as GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and melatonin—that the brain uses to regulate mood and cognition.
Furthermore, bacteria in the gut can influence neural development, brain chemistry and a wide range of behavioral phenomena, including emotional behavior, pain perception and how the stress system responds.
What This Deep Gut-Brain Connection Means for Your Body and Beauty
If the balance of bacteria in your gut is off, signals from your stomach to the rest of your body won’t function optimally, and your overall health will suffer.
According to Stanford University scientists, the balance of our healthy bacteria affects our immune system, energy and obesity. Here is a direct quote from their research:
There are 10-100 trillion microbes that reside in our gastrointestinal tract representing thousands of species. This gut microbiota elicits host responses that impact fundamental and diverse aspects of our biology including the development and maintenance of innate and adaptive immune systems, energy production and obesity.
Beneficial bacteria can even help produce your own custom antibiotics, according to Michael Fischbach, PhD, a faculty member in the UCSF School of Pharmacy – in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California, San Diego.
The two-year Medical Research Program grant began January 2011 and is titled, “Beyond the Human Microbiome: The human gut as an antibiotic discovery engine” and makes the case that our beneficial bacteria actually produce antibiotics for us that are many times more powerful that any drug.
Even The Nutrition You Absorb Depends on Bacteria
As we mentioned earlier, our gut bacteria plays a role in the manufacturing of substances like neurotransmitters (including serotonin); enzymes and vitamins (notably Bs and K) and other essential nutrients (including important amino acid and short-chain fatty acids); and a suite of other signaling molecules that talk to, and influence, the immune and the metabolic systems.
Some of these compounds may play a role in regulating our stress levels and even temperament: when gut microbes from easygoing, adventurous mice are transplanted into the guts of anxious and timid mice, they become more adventurous.
Impact on Our Weight and Body Fat Levels
In 2006 Dr Gordon, who works at the Washington University School of Medicine, in St Louis, Missouri, published a study that looked at the mixture of bacteria in the guts of fat and thin Americans. Fat people, he discovered, had more firmicutes and fewer bacteroidetes than thin ones. And if dieting made a fat person thin, his bacterial flora changed to match.
Experiments on mice suggest this is not just a question of the bacteria responding to altered circumstances. They actually assist the process of slimming by suppressing production of a hormone that facilitates the storage of fat, and of an enzyme that stops fat being burned.
This is pretty profound. It means that if the bacteria balance in your tummy is off, you may try your hardest to lose weight and not be able to shed fat. Yet, achieve the right balance of healthy flora, and shedding those excess pounds is something you barely have to think about. It happens much more easily and naturally when your intestinal flora is balanced.
Action Steps to Strengthen Your Second Brain and Balance Your Entire Body
So far, we’ve covered a lot about the science of how the neurons and bacteria in your gut work together to send signals, hormones and much more to all parts of your body – affecting your health in so many ways.
Now, I want to review some action steps so you can optimize this connection and experience the best gut-brain health possible.
Step 1: Eat a Beauty Detox-based diet.
Why? For several reasons. First of all, organic plant foods tend to break down into friendly forms of bacteria, as well as feed the existing beneficial bacteria inside you now. Many other types of food, including pasteurized milk, processed food and other unnatural food substances can either become or feed pathogenic bacteria, and therefore disturb the balance of bacteria inside you now.
If you’re already doing this (which I hope you are), great! Keep going! And if you’re new to this community, we have a variety of resources here on the blog – including books (The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods, recipes, past posts, and much more – to help you on your journey.)
Step 2: Avoid processed food in any form.
Here’s a super interesting quote from Time magazine about this:
Catherine Lozupone in Boulder and Andrew Gewirtz, an immunologist at Georgia State University, directed my attention to the emulsifiers commonly used in many processed foods — ingredients with names like lecithin, Datem, CMC and polysorbate 80. Gewirtz’s lab has done studies in mice indicating that some of these detergent-like compounds may damage the mucosa — the protective lining of the gut wall — potentially leading to leakage and inflammation.
So you see, the problem with processed food isn’t just that it contains toxins, lacks nutrition, or is hard to digest. Perhaps worst of all, it distorts the balance of beneficial bacteria inside you and creates gut leakage… which can lead to even greater problems in your body.
Step 3: Keep your colon clean.
So far we’ve covered food, but we haven’t discussed cleansing or detoxification much yet. And that’s just as important, because anytime you have old or stagnant waste that stays in your intestinal tract too long – chances are you’ll experience rotting or putrefaction that can lead to overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria.
Of course, eating lots of fiber in the form of organic fruits and vegetables is one way to help “move things along” and keep your colon clean. But for many of us, including myself in the beginning, just getting lots of fiber is not enough. That’s why I recently began offering a product called DETOXY, which contains ozonated magnesium that can help oxygenate and break up waste in your intestinal tract. It’s 100% gluten-free and vegan.
Step 4: Use a quality probiotic.
This one should be obvious, after everything we’ve mentioned about bacteria in this post, yet now we are turning it into an action step. There are few things you an do more more effective than tapping into the immense importance of bacteria and how it works with neurons in your gut, sending signals and producing nutrients that affect every aspect of your health.
That means it’s wise for us to do anything we can in order to assist our body in reaching optimal balance of beneficial bacteria (the word “probiotics” means life-giving bacteria).
Yes, a diet rich in organic plant foods and cultured vegetables will take us a long way in this direction, but I also recommend choosing the right probiotic supplement to further optimize and enhance this process.
I’m, of course, partial to the one we created and offer — Kimberly Snyder Probiotics — which focuses on powerful probiotic strains (SBO’s) that originated in natural soil and reflect the exact strains we would have ingested if living and eating in nature. Also, the reviews have been extremely positive, and you can read some of them right here.
Step 5: Keep your life positive and stress-free as possible!
Throughout this post, we’ve covered how your gut affects your brain and the entire rest of your body. Yet, it’s important to also note that this goes both ways – in other words, what’s happening in your brain is also affecting your gut and tummy.
So if you’re stressed, anxious, worried or upset – that will send signals of distress to your gut region and, if prolonged, create imbalance there. Chronic stress can disturb your digestion, imbalance your hormones and much more. That’s why it’s so important to ensure you are in a positive environment, and around positive/uplifting people who will not stress you out or bring you down.
In other words, negative people can not only affect your tummy health – but also your tummy size as well!
So do your best to steer clear of anyone or anything that isn’t supporting your highest good.
I hope this post helps you understand how powerful the gut-brain connection is, how science is uncovering exciting new details about this connection, and why we need to prioritize it in our health journey.
There is literally no part of your body or beauty that is not affected in some way by your intestinal, bacterial balance.
That knowledge, combined with the five steps I’ve given you – should provide you with much of what you need to maximize your health in this key area.
I have “gut feeling” you’re doing awesome already — and you’re about to experience even more amazing improvements in your health! :)