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The Gut-Brain Connection

The Gut-Brian Connection

By Huda Al-Qatami

A little while back I attended an interesting workshop by a Dr. Gina Willett, PhD., R.D. I found it quite helpful and wanted to share/summarize some of what I learned with you. Basically in this workshop Dr. Willett explained the concept of the gut-brain axis and it’s implication for health and disease, listed strategies to improve gut & brain health (which I will share with you), and gave some good resources to empower ourselves as consumers when faced with decisions as to what diets to follow and what supplements are useful.

The essence of the workshop revolved around the importance of our gut microbes to our overall health and wellbeing. Here are some of the strategies that Dr. Willett listed to help us keep our “guts” healthy (some of these are common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to hear them again):

  • Feed your microbiota: By focusing on a high-fiber, plant-based diet, incorporating fermented foods, which are natural probiotics (such as fresh kimchi, kombucha and yogurt), and prebiotics (such as bananas, garlic, asparagus and oats), reduce consumption of animal products, limit processed foods, and consider intermittent fasting (12-hour night time fasting). Microbiota refers to the hundreds of trillions of microbes in and on the body.

  • Reduce Stress: She recommended meditation and yoga (wait, isn’t that what we do at Sati Yoga?!).

  • Rewire the brain: Using mindfulness based approaches (wait, don’t we also do that at Sati?!).

  • Sleep: Make quality sleep a priority (remember that your lifestyle has a big impact on the quality of your sleep).

  • Maintain and improve oral health: Don’t miss those dental cleanings and remember to floss!

  • Spend time in nature: Activities conducted in natural environments increase the likelihood that the individual will inhale natural phytnocides (chemicals secreted from trees and ornamental plants) that are associated with both stress reduction and immune system benefits.

  • Physical activity: Exercise has been shown to increase the richness and diversity of gut microbiota (in addition to all the other gazillion benefits that we get from exercise…but that’s just my two cents!).

  • Social connections: Make positive social connections a priority (no Facebook friends don’t count…well, at least that’s my opinion).

* Here are some of the resources she mentioned that I found helpful:

  • If you are curious about which diet is the best, you can go to this link https://health.usnews.com/best-diet. It shows how a panel of 25 nationally recognized experts rated 40 diets that are out there (hint, first on the list of best diets overall is the Mediterranean diet).

  • While Dr. Willett recommended getting most of your nutrients from actual food rather than supplement, she did recommend looking for this label, UPS Verified https://www.usp.org/, on the supplements you use. They basically verify that what is on the label is what you are getting.

I hope you find some of this as helpful as I did. This workshops basically boils down to what I have believed and practiced for years; If you want to live happier, healthier lives you should eat more whole, natural foods, get enough rest, manage your stress, exercise regularly, get out in nature, and practice mindfulness & meditation. In short, live a healthy lifestyle. So here’s to your health my friends!

If you are interested to learn more about Dr. Willett, here is a link to her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DrWillett/

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