We’re told to “trust your gut” when making uncertain decisions. When we feel nervous, we describe that feeling as having “butterflies in our stomach”. Or when dealt with devastating news, the shock makes us feel as if we’ve been punched in the gut or that we might even vomit. As people learn more about the connection between our brain and our gut, we are realizing that these expressions are used for a good reason. Many indigenous cultures understood this connection, evidenced in the many herbal remedies and diets practiced through the generations that work to strengthen the gut. Native people understood that the balance between the gut and the brain was imperative to overall well being. Many traditional cultures encourage fermented foods in their diets, while others emphasize the importance of massages that re-activate the gut. There was always a reason why tūtū insisted you eat your poi sour rather than fresh.
There is research that supports that our gut is responsive to our genetic DNA, so eating foods that our ancestors ate many times falls in alignment with good gut health. If you find yourself at a crossroads as to what to eat to feel better, look no further than your grandmaʻs secret soup recipes or herbal remedies passed down through generations that you may have never given attention to. They often hold the secrets to optimal health and we could benefit from heading their advice. Fermented veggies, sour poi, caldo, and sobadas are all cultural practices that we respond to. Reach out to your family and replicate old family recipes for certain ailments; you will not be disappointed.
As we dig into modern research, here are some ways we have learned that gut health contributes to oneʻs overall wellness and explain the science behind what we indigenous people already knew. According to a Cal Tech article released on April 20, 2020, there is constant and continuous communication between our “gut bugs” and our brain cells. This is a completely normal relationship that helps our brains develop and regulates changes in our mood and behavior. “The notion that tiny microorganisms in our gut have the potential to impact how we think and feel probably sounds far-fetched. However, there are actually multiple avenues of communication between our gut and brain. For example, gut bacteria produce hormones and other signaling molecules, like neurotransmitters, that can relay messages to the brain. Serotonin and dopamine, the so-called ʻfeel-goodʻ neurotransmitters, are made by gut bacteria and influence how we think and feel.” Maintaining a healthy and diverse repertoire of gut bacteria is critical for proper production of these compounds and our overall brain health."
When our gut is not making healthy bacteria and not being nourished to itʻs fullest potential, there is a deficiency that directly impacts our mental health and brain function. Did you know that serotonin and dopamine, the “happy hormones,” are actually produced in your gut and not in your brain? The way our gut functions greatly impacts our emotions and moods and is particularly important for adolescents. Many of our youth are walking around with a gut function that is minimal. Junk food, sugary treats, energy drinks, lack of sleep, school, and peer stress all work against your gut. This makes an already grouchy teen, who is trying to figure out their hormones, even more grouchy and unpredictable. If your gut isnʻt creating enough dopamine and serotonin then you will feel sad and less motivated than normal.
There are natural ways to remedy this imbalance. Many daily supplements can help to restore our guts to optimal performance. Probiotics are amazing and restore the depleted healthy bacteria which contribute to the making of our “happy hormones'' and immunity boosters. There are also many gut supplements on the market. You can find these in health stores and in some natural pathologist offices. Also, make sure you are eating well-balanced meals with more fruits and vegetables than animal protein. The saying, “you are what you eat,” couldn't hold more truth when talking about gut health.
Large amounts of stress can also greatly impact the function of our gut. Many children who are stressed beyond their limits will often complain of stomach aches and pains. It is important to recognize these pains as not just attention-seeking behaviors but rather, a sign that the gut is working overtime, releasing high levels of cortisol which in turn causes inflammation. It is well known that inflammation wreaks havoc on our body and greatly lowers our immune system.
As an experiment, I tried a new probiotic, Mary Ruth Organics Pau dʻArco, for a week. Prior to using Pau dʻArco, I was suffering from bloating and acid reflux. Sometimes the pain was so severe that I would have to fall asleep sitting up on my sofa. When I started to use the Pau dʻ Arco three times daily as suggested, I began to feel lighter and less inflamed. My acid reflux decreased significantly and I immediately felt more energized. I had more energy to exercise and increased motivation to tackle my super busy schedule. I am currently working three jobs and raising two teenagers – I need all the energy I can get. The taste is not an issue and I love how I can just take the drops without having to mix with any other liquids. I highly recommend this product for anyone feeling sluggish and suffering from inflammation. As a mental health professional who understands the importance of a healthy gut, I would recommend this product to everyone without any hesitation.
Whether using modern or traditional techniques, gut health is important for your overall well being. The most important thing is to keep a well-balanced lifestyle with 8-10 hours of sleep per night, 64 ounces of water daily, and a well-balanced diet that is heavy with fruits and vegetables and lighter on meats and fats. This will surely make for one happy gut, and a happy gut produces more and more happy hormones that make us feel good! Itʻs never too late to instill healthy habits for our teens and for ourselves. The sooner you start on this health journey, the greater the benefit for you in the long run.
To learn more about Mary Ruth Organicsʻ Pau dʻArco, check out: https://www.maryruthorganics.com/products/pau-d-arco-blend-herbal-blend-1oz