Smart tums and smarter mums
Dr Libby answers readers’ questions about living a healthier life.
Question: I have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and I’ve noticed my brain feels really foggy on the days my tummy is particularly bad. Can you expect to be able to think clearly, concentrate well and have balanced moods if your gut health is compromised? Thanks, Sue. Hi Sue, biochemically and microbiologically speaking, it is very difficult to think clearly, concentrate well and have an even mood if gut health is compromised.
The gut is essentially the second brain. The gut is created from the same tissue as the brain during foetal development and the two systems are connected via the nervous system. It is believed that the vagus nerve is one way the gut bacteria signal the brain.
It is important to remember that digestion begins in the mouth and many people inhale their food, rather than chewing it sufficiently. There are no more teeth lining the oesophagus for food to be exposed to once it has left your mouth.
Food then lands in the stomach where it is exposed to acid, designed to break the food down further. However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that many people today do not produce adequate stomach acid or the pH is too high. This means the food may not be broken down well, plus the compromised stomach acid signals poorly to the rest of the digestive system and ancillary organs, such as the pancreas, that food is on its way.
This can alter what is known as the pH gradient of the rest of the digestive tract. And just as humans can survive on earth, as conditions such as temperature and oxygen availability suit our needs, gut bacteria have specific survival needs too, including pH.
If the pH of the large intestine is compromised this can mean that the bugs you want living there can’t take up residence.
So even the best diet (way of eating) may not generate big