We should all be eating more fiber.
That’s the advice we are constantly given by health professionals, public health bodies, and our grandparents alike.
That fiber is necessary as part of a healthful diet is not just folklore or an old wives’ tale; it’s medical fact. You need to eat plenty of fiber on a regular basis to keep your digestive system working properly.
There is now a mountain of research showing that fiber consumption is tightly correlated with the incidence of colorectal cancer. We have clear mechanisms to explain this correlation too, so we can infer causation – fiber consumption helps protect against colorectal cancer.
There is also a robust body of research showing that a diet rich in soluble fibers protects against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a trove of inflammatory and metabolic conditions.
But one subject that is only just beginning to be researched properly is the relationship between fiber consumption and cognitive performance.
Many clinicians now believe that your gut in large part controls your cognitive performance – your memory function, focus, mental energy, and even your mood.
This has led many people to assert that a fiber-rich diet is the best diet for optimizing cognitive function.
Is this true? Can fiber really improve memory, focus, and mood? How does the gut influence the brain?
Let’s see what the experts have to say!
The Gut-Brain Axis
The gut is home to an enormous amount of neurons. There are more neurons in the human gut than there are in the brain of a rat; one fo the most intelligent rodents. The gut is also where you’ll find the highest concentrations of certain neurotransmitters usually associated with the brain; 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut, and most of it is used there to govern digestive function.
This bundle of nerves and neurotransmitters is called the enteric nervous system, and it is part of the autonomic nervous system. This is the wiring responsible for the things you don’t have to think about – breathing, digesting food, releasing enzymes, and so on.
The enteric nervous system in the gut and the brain are in constant communication with one another via the Vagus Nerve.
The communication between the brain and the “second brain” worls two ways – the brain sends signals to the gut, and the gut sends both electrical signals and neurotransmitters to the brain.
This is what led many researchers to begin looking at the gut-mind connection in the first place.
What they found is pretty staggering.
Gut Health & Cognitive Performance
According to Brian Johnson of VAGA.org, gut health and cognitive performance are intimately linked.
“People are quick to start experimenting with nootropics when they want to gain a mental edge. But they completely ignore their gut microbiome, the health of which can have an exponentially bigger impact on cognition than smart drugs.”
This seems to be true when you look at the experience of people using prebiotics online. The best prebiotics (http://www.vaga.org/best-prebiotics/) claim to not only improve digestive health, but also to promote heightened focus and better memory function.
According to the user base, they work!
This is backed up by hard clinical research. There are dozens of clinical trials out there – like this one https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30535275 – which show that prebiotic use promote better memory recall, retention, and verbal fluency.
Prebiotic supplements are just concentrated forms of certain plant fibers. Incorporating more indigestible, water soluble fiber into your diet will clearly improve memory, as well as a lot of other cognitive faculties.