In Oriental medicine, the body is thought to be composed of complementary systems. In our digestive system, we actually have a second brain called the enteric nervous system. The same kind of cells are found in both systems. From birth, our gut bacteria guides the development of our immune system and brain. This ongoing relationship continues throughout our life. The digestive system processes liquids (food and drink); and the nervous system processes vibrations, or thoughts and images. Healthy digestion fosters healthy thinking.
Creating healthy gut bacteria starts with good eating habits. That means sitting down to eat without distractions, at regular, recurring times. In addition, good gut bacteria are fostered by natural activities, like walking, gardening, cleaning and sex.
Our gut is nourished by both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are in essence fiber and serve as food for the probiotics, which are the actual bacteria and yeast that inhabit our digestive system. Probiotics aid in the synthesis of vitamins and other valuable nutrients.
Fiber has a variety of functions: it activates and scours our digestive system, and binds with toxins and cholesterol to expel them from our body. Fiber encourages the growth of healthy bacteria and suppresses the development of harmful bacteria. Naturally fermented, pickled and unpasteurized foods are important and healthy sources of probiotics.
The most important prebiotics are found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and land and sea vegetables. Sea vegetables include the most common seaweeds, like Nori, dulse, wakame and kombu.
Try to get a variety of naturally pickled, fermented, and unpasteurized foods, which come from grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. The most important probiotics are miso, umeboshi plum, sauerkraut, and kimchi. The full value of miso comes out when used as a soup. When miso soup is made, the enzymes become activated and the liquid form is easy to absorb into the digestive system. Umeboshi is a unique Japanese plum that encourages growth of healthy bacteria, and suppresses unhealthy bacteria. It has a salty and tangy taste that goes well with grains.
Try to observe the connection between your digestion and your moods and thoughts. I hear consistently from my counseling clients that they feel better, think more clearly, and sleep more soundly in a very short period of time. A combination of sound eating habits, healthy activities and dietary choices creates the best nourishment and digestion.