Hannibal Regional Blog


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Beyond Gut Health
gut health, digestive healthThe hottest trend in nutrition research over the past couple of years has been on gastrointestinal (I’ll refer to that as the gut) health and the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive system for overall wellness and disease prevention. The gut microbiome houses tens of trillions of microorganisms that keep our immune system running properly, supports digestive health, and has been associated with irritable bowel syndrome, memory, cognition, mood disorders, depression/anxiety, autism, cognitive aging and dementia, Parkinson’s disease and MS.

Most often, the mind and body are treated as separate entities, but new research on the gut microbiome and the role it plays on human health may take the world of medicine to a whole new level. When studying Dietetics at The University of Missouri, one of my professors introduced the gastrointestinal tract as the “big brain” and our brain as the “little brain” because they are so closely linked. Scientists have known for years about the gut-brain connection, the two-way communication between the central nervous system (CNS) and the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS covers the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions. We experience this when stress or anger causes “knots” in our stomach or when we have "a gut feeling."

What keeps the gut microbiome healthy and prevent disease? More on this topic in the upcoming weeks!

Research to date supports the role of gut bacteria in brain development and function but most has been conducted in preclinical animal models, with little in clinical human research. References for the upcoming weeks are provided by the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Clinical Nutrition Week 2017 (Webinar Series), Healing the Gut Through Functional Nutrition (Webinar), and Exploring the Microbiome-Gut Brain Axis (Article)

Blog post provided by:
Katie Foster, RDN, LD
Nutrition Services
Hannibal Regional


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