Smart tums and smarter mums

Dr Libby an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about liv­ing a health­ier life.

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH -

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

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