Have you ever stopped and thought about your gut microbiome? If not, then you’re just like the vast majority of people. Typically, people don’t give a second of thought to their gut health until they experience serious digestive problems.
But your gut isn’t something that you should only think about when it starts letting you down.
Your gut actually influences your body in lots of different ways. This influence isn’t trivial either; your digestive system has a massive effect on your mental and physical performance, as well as your overall health and well-being.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that your gut affects your body and your mind.
The gut & physical performance
The state of your gut microbiome directly affects physical performance in several different ways.
Studies have found that the make-up of your gut microflora (i.e. the balance of different bacteria species in your gut) has a direct, measurable effect on:
- Peak power output
- Total strength levels
- Recovery time
- Sprinting speed
The exact reasons as to why the health of your gut microbiome affects so many different aspects of physical performance is not known. However, there are obvious candidates.
Obviously, a gut full of harmful bacteria and devoid of healthy bacteria will struggle to break down and process vital nutrients. A gut microflora that is completely out of balance will be unable to digest the short chain fatty acids, vitamins, and carbohydrates that you need to perform optimally.
A lack of bacteria capable of efficiently digesting carbohydrates would – by itself – explain to a great extent why your gut controls your physical performance.
Even though we don’t know the exact mechanism behind the relationship, we can be sure that the relationship does exist. There are no shortage of clinical trials showing a bi-directional relationship between physical performance and gut health (exercise frequency bolsters gut health).
This is why the best probiotics for men are often marketed as both gut health supplements and sports performance supplements – they are one in the same thing!
Gut health & mental performance
This is the thing that very few people understand about the gut – it holds enormous influence over your brain and how it works.
The science is very clear on this one; an imbalanced gut microbiome correlates very strongly with poor cognitive performance. The worse the state of your gut bacteria, the worse your cognitive performance. People with an overgrowth of harmful gut bacteria and a paucity of friendly gut bacteria have slower reactions, worse memories, worse decision making, and dramatically reduced focus.
Interestingly, studies are now showing that a disrupted gut microbiome also correlates with mood issues. It seems that your gut can cause things like anxiety (source), lethargy, lack of motivation, and possibly depression. Likewise, improving your gut health can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and help fight depression.
How can this be so?
Simple – your gut is a kind of “second brain”. Your digestive system is home to the second densest concentration of nerves in the human body after the brain. Your gut actually has more nerve cells than a rat’s brain. This “second brain” is in constant communication with your actual brain via the Vagus Nerve.
Moreover, your gut is where a large proportion of your neurotransmitters are produced. For example, the enteric nervous system (the gut’s “brain”) is the main source of serotonin; the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of empathy, contentment, and togetherness.
If you don’t have the bacteria in your gut capable of synthesizing serotonin, your mood is going to be pretty low.
Don’t ignore your gut. It affects every single aspect of your health and performance in a deep way. If you care at all about enhancing health and performance, then you should take the time to create a healthy gut microbiome.
Doing so is easy.
Eat plenty of fiber, limit alcohol intake, reduce stress, and use probiotics or prebiotics if necessary.
Do these things and you will start to reap more benefits than you imagined.