Healthy Gut = Healthy Life. Why is that?

Nov 30, 2023

Written by co-founder Erica Diepersloot

Young husband and wife stand with bikes in front of coastline in Monterrey, CA

One of our favorite bike routes in California with amazing views… you can take it for miles, but somehow we managed to take a picture at the one spot that includes a trash can 🙃

The gut wants what it wants

My husband and I recently celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary, and got to enjoy some quality time as just the two of us in beautiful Monterey Bay. We had the luxury of biking, golfing, hiking, playing tennis, and jumping in the ocean together, plus going out to fun restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is where I sometimes have an issue… I love the breakfast that we make every morning when we’re home so much that I prefer not to go out for breakfast – because I tend to be disappointed that it isn’t quite what we make at home. I know this sounds petty, and I should learn to just enjoy the omelet they have on the menu or splurging on decadent French toast while we’re on vacation. But our avocado-toast-with-fried-eggs-topped-with-spinach-and-balsamic is a specialty that we have perfected in our household. 

That being said, we found a lovely restaurant on this little overnight trip that overlooked the ocean. (Little-known fact about Monterey: The sun actually rises on the water because of the way the Bay is shaped… considering the sun rises in the east, this is rare in California where we normally enjoy sunsets on the water instead of sunrises!) They actually accommodated my special order and I got to enjoy my favorite breakfast – and didn’t even have to clean up the pan afterwards ☺️

Breakfast meal out at a restaurant

What does breakfast have to do with a healthy gut?

While wanting the same exact breakfast every day seems like an odd phenomenon to some of you, it does have some science to back it up. It has to do with the gut bacteria that we can build up in our guts. Our gut lining is filled with different types of bacteria, including certain microbiota that aid in digestion, produce vitamins, and regulate our immune system. Different types of bacteria feed on different types of prebiotics founds in fiber-rich food we eat. You may be familiar with probiotics, which are the live microorganisms that are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. 

The key difference between prebiotics and probiotics is that the prebiotics are what feed the good bacteria.

But regardless, these two work together to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. 

Examples of excellent sources of prebiotics are:

  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Onion
  • Leafy Greens (yay spinach!)
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Flax seed
  • Garlic
  • Bovine milk oligosaccharides – found in Colostrum ☺️

Mother and daughter using fruits and leafy greens to blend a smoothie in the kitchen

How what we eat impacts our gut over time 

Each person has a unique gut microbiome in his or her body that has been built up by their genetics, environment, age and the food they consume. Of that list, the only thing that we can control is the food we consume, so it is helpful to be aware that we have the power to improve our gut microbiome by the food we eat.

As we eat prebiotics, the good bacteria in our gut begins to thrive, which aids in our overall health – and this good bacteria will want more of those particular prebiotics.

So it’s a positive cycle of consuming prebiotics to feed the good bacteria, then the good bacteria in our gut wants more prebiotics. It’s not actually a craving for them, but you may find yourself gradually increasing your intake of prebiotics because they start to sound good to you, taste good to you, and you like the way you feel.

I had started adding spinach to my diet casually during college. It wasn’t a super conscious decision, just that I had heard of students gaining the “freshman fifteen” and wanted to avoid that myself, so decided to make an effort to eat healthfully. It began by just adding a few leafy greens to any salad or omelet to make it more nutritious, but I found that spinach is so mildly flavored that you can easily add it to pretty much anything. So I blend it into my smoothies and acai bowls, add it to sandwiches and wraps, and top it over pizza or pasta. 

Foods rich in prebiotics

I have found myself being aware of what the food I am consuming can do for me – and I like that spinach helps maintain high energy levels as well as support our immune system. So I add it to most of my meals, even if it means that my in-laws might make fun of me for traveling with a bag of spinach just in case (that happened like one time😉)

What does a healthy microbiome mean for us?

How does our gut impact our immunity?

There is more and more research on the correlation between our gut health and our overall wellness. 

A key factor is that 80% of our immune system resides in our gut (crazy right?) 

So if we can improve our gut, this can positively impact our immunity, resulting in getting sick less often. Doesn’t that sound nice? 

Two girls on yoga mats

Does our gut impact our mind?

Research* also shows the correlation between a healthy gut and a healthy mind. In fact, the enteric nervous system (a network of millions of nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract to manage digestion) is actually also known as the “second brain” because it can operate independently of the brain.

This gives the phrase “Go with your gut” even more significance!

Our gut is home to a huge presence of serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters known as “the happy hormones” because they help regulate mood. There are new findings that a large portion of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety – explained by the way that any irritation in our digestive system may send signals to our central nervous system that triggers mood changes. All that to say, improving our gut health allows for our hormones to properly manage our mood and emotions.

Does the gut affect our cognitive health?

In addition to regulating our mood, research has shown that the gut microbiome can influence our cognitive health – which can play a role in many conditions, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder. Rob (my husband and the Founder of WonderCow) has been reading (and continually re-reading) a book called The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer – we highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the way the brain and gut communicate with each other.

Rob and I have been amazed with the power of the gut and it has made us even more passionate about sharing the effect that gut health has on your overall well being – and how each of us has the power to improve it. You may be starting to understand how our passion is all connected: colostrum contains prebiotics (again, the food for good bacteria in our gut), so yay for doing what we can to improve our gut health!

Husband and wife stand along coastline

Now you have a little background on why a person might crave the same food every day (in my case: our family’s favorite breakfast, recipe below). This can be because it is a favorite food of the good bacteria in their gut. I should also mention that the whole “gut-craves-what-you-feed-it” thing is true for the good as well as the bad. So as much as I can encourage my own personal gut that its favorite food is spinach, this might only be true until 7pm… when I start feeding it chocolate chip cookies or popcorn and Milk Duds. My gut is saying that’s just balance 😉

Our favorite breakfast recipe to make at home

I am including the recipe here, but know that this is all just eye-balled every morning 🙂

Ingredients

  • Wheat-sourdough-toast (my sister recently started baking her own sourdough – I haven’t gotten there yet, but I hope to soon because hers is unbelievable)
  • Avocado
  • seasoning: Trader Joe’s Chili Lime or Everything-but-the-Bagel seasoning; otherwise salt and pepper
  • Eggs
  • A slice of Gouda cheese
  • Fresh spinach
  • Balsamic vinegar: aged balsamic vinegar is my go-to, but you can also drizzle balsamic syrup especially as you’re first getting into this

How to make your morning breakfast toast

  1. Fry two eggs (per serving) to your liking (I prefer over medium). 
  2. Toast your slice of sourdough until golden brown, then spread thinly with butter. 
  3. Spread avocado over top (I used to be stingy about avocado but now I’m pretty generous with it… I use about half of an avocado per serving). 
  4. Sprinkle with seasoning (either the Chili Lime or the Everything-but-the-Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s is fantastic, but you can also just use salt and pepper). 
  5. Add a handful (or whatever amount you are comfortable with) of spinach over your toast and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. 
  6. Add your eggs over the spinach and top with a slice of cheese (we use whatever we have in the house, but Gouda is my favorite). Enjoy!

Learn more about bovine milk oligosaccharides, aka prebiotics in colostrum: Check it out!

Source

*PubMed: The enteric nervous system and gastrointestinal innervation: integrated local and central control 

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