Meet Your Second Brain: Your Microbiome

The large intestine, also known as the large bowel or colon, is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract and of the digestive system in vertebrates. Water is absorbed here and the remaining waste material is stored as feces before being removed by defecation.



  Did you know that you are a host to trillions of bacteria and micro-organisms?    Meet your second Brain:  your microbiome.  All of these bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes make up your microbiome, a delicate eco-system contained in your gut.  Some micro-organisms aid in breaking down our food and digestion, others play a role in signaling important chemical reactions, while others play a role in producing serotonin and regulating your hormones, including your thyroid, estrogen and melatonin levels.[1]

Considering the important role your microbiome plays, it is no wonder that what you feed your microbiome has a direct correlation to your health.    The majority of your immune system is located in your GI tract.   In order to have a strong immune system, it is critical that the “good” and “bad” bacteria are balanced.  Problems begin when your gut balance goes out of whack and your gut becomes inflamed.  In fact, all diseases, including auto-immune and cancers in the human body begin in the gut.[2]

“All Disease Begins in The Gut.” Hippocrates 460-375 BC

Even depression, behavioral disorders, sleeplessness, stress and anxiety begins in your gut. [3] Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in our brain that is also known as a “feel good” hormone. [4]  Serotonin makes us feel happy.  People that are depressed have low serotonin levels.  [5]  Stress and anxiety are directly impacted by your microbiome.  [6]  Your microbiome contains 500 million neurons that are communicated directly to your brain via the vagus nerve.[7]  That is why your gut is called your second brain.

When you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or you suffer from auto-immune disease or get sick easily, the first thing you need to look at is your diet and how it affects your gut.  Over time, poor food choices will cause inflammation and leaky gut syndrome[8].  When that happens, you are opening the door to all kinds of health problems, including but not limited to, anxiety, depression, auto immune diseases, compromised immune system, arthritis, etc..

Foods that inflame the gut and cause microbiome imbalance include[9]:  


  • Wheat-based products: bread, pasta, cereals, wheat flour, couscous, etc.
  • Gluten-containing grains: barley, rye, bulgur, seitan, triticale, and oats
  • Processed meats: cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
  • Baked goods: cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries, and pizza
  • Snack foods: crackers, muesli bars, popcorn, pretzels, etc.
  • Junk food: fast foods, potato chips, sugary cereals, candy bars, etc.
  • Dairy products: milk, cheeses, and ice cream
  • Refined oils: canola, sunflower, soybean, and safflower oils
  • Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin
  • Sauces: salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki, and hoisin sauce
  • Sugar
  • Beverages: alcohol, carbonated beverages, and other sugary drinks

Foods that promote gut health and support as healthy microbiome include[10]:

  • Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, carrots, kale, eggplant, beetroot, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, mushrooms, and zucchini
  • Roots and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash, and turnips
  • Fermented vegetables: kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso
  • Fruit: coconut, grapes, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, mandarin, lemon, limes, passionfruit, and papaya
  • Sprouted seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and more
  • Gluten-free grains: buckwheat, amaranth, rice (brown and white), teff, and gluten-free oats
  • Healthy fats: avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil
  • Fish: salmon, tuna, herring, and other omega-3-rich fish
  • Meats and eggs: lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, and eggs
  • Herbs and spices: all herbs and spices
  • Cultured dairy products: kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt, and traditional buttermilk
  • Beverages: bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water, and kombucha
  • Nuts: raw nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and nut-based products
  • Prebiotic foods: garlic, onions, artichokes, asparagus, leeks and plantains


“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~ Hippocrates

What you eat MATTERS!  The consequences of a poor diet can be devastating.  Your health truly is your wealth.  Protect it, nourish it!  Here are some easy, common sense steps you can take now to support your gut health:

  • Take a high-quality probiotic supplement.  Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that help balance the gut.  Probiotics are also found in yogurt and naturally fermented foods.
  • Eat a whole food diet and eliminate processed food and sugar.
  • Exercise three times a week.
  • Reduce stress through breathing exercises, physical activity, meditation and yoga.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Get more sleep.

Your second brain is just as important as the one in your head.  Treat it well.  You’ll be happy you did.

About the Author

Dina Arvanitakis is an attorney that is passionate about health and wellness and is an avid reader on nutrition and how it impacts the human body.  Her desire is to share her knowledge to help people make a positive difference in their lives.

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[8] Leaky gut syndrome is a digestive condition that affects the lining of the intestines. In leaky gut syndrome, gaps in the intestinal walls allow bacteria and other toxins to pass into the bloodstream.



Dina Arvanitakis
Dina is a certified functional medicine nutrition coach and author that is passionate about health and wellness. As a health advocate, she coaches clients on how to implement anti-aging techniques and weight-loss strategies and solutions so they can become their own powerful success stories. She believes that everyone can enjoy a healthy vibrant life once they are empowered with knowledge and the right tools to make effective changes in their lives. A healthy you is a FABULOUS you!