Maria Shriver: ‘The gut is often called the second brain’

Maria Shriver has an interview with Prevention to promote her partnership with Renew Life, a probiotics supplement brand. She talks about aging, about advocating for yourself with your doctor and about the importance of gut health. It’s aimed at selling probiotics, but a lot of what she said rang true to me and I wanted to talk about it.

“When it comes to the gut specifically, we know now that the gut is often called the second brain,” says Shriver. “Just like it’s critical to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle to keep our minds sharp as we age, it’s super important to lead a gut-healthy lifestyle as well.”

But when it comes to her health, Shriver reveals that her access to health and wellness was limited during her younger years. This is why she now stresses the importance of educating women about topics like gut health and hormones.

“Growing up, I never heard of gut health or probiotics (supplements) or prebiotics—especially for women. Women’s health, in general, wasn’t talked about much at all until recently. Funding and research into women’s health issues are still decades behind.”

And that’s not the only issue. Shriver says multiple women she has spoken with express that medical professionals often don’t have answers for their health concerns…

“When it comes to wellness, it’s critical for women to be the CEOs of their own health,” says Shriver. “Approach your visit to the doctor like a reporter. Bring a notebook, write down your symptoms, and be detailed. If something still doesn’t feel right or you don’t feel heard, get a second opinion. Persist. Advocating for your own health and for your loved ones can be daunting, but it’s how we move the needle and keep pushing forward.”

[From Prevention]

In early January, I got depressed and was withdrawing from friends. (I am fine now and have felt back to normal for months.) It was obvious to me that something was wrong and that it was serious. I realized that I had just finished a course of antibiotics so I googled it and found so many published studies that show a link between depression and recent antibiotic use! It’s so true that gut health and our microbiome can affect our emotional health. Now I take a probiotic every day along with drinking kombucha and eating more fruits and vegetables. It makes such a difference in my mood.

Getting back to Shriver, I like what she said about advocating for yourself at the doctor. Her advice is sound and it’s very necessary, especially for women. Being in the position to see multiple doctors is a privileged one in America unfortunately. It should not be this way. Plus, women of color have a much different experience seeking healthcare, in general, than white women.

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20 Responses to “Maria Shriver: ‘The gut is often called the second brain’”

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  1. Izzy says:

    She’s correct. That is one of the reasons the newer class of glutide drugs for diabetes work for weight loss as well. They act on metabolic hormones that signal hunger and satiety and strongly curb craving impulses, to the point that they are now being looked at as possible treatments for addiction.

  2. ME says:

    Ok confession. I’ve been watching the new mini-series “The Staircase”. Her son Patrick is on the show. He is a scene stealer. Not only is he a great actor, but damn he’s cute. Super cute. Can’t take my eyes off of him when he’s on screen cute. Never paid much attention to him before.

    • Normades says:

      He played the toxic jerk in Moxie very well. He definitely does have some talent and charisma.

  3. Zapp Brannigan says:

    I am currently in trauma counseling and the gut as as a second brain is something that we just discussed. My therapist was saying that so much research was based on the assumption that the relationship between brain and body was a one way system, the brain gave an instruction and the body carried out the action. Only in the past decade or two has the two way system started being understood, how the body feeds back to the brain and we focus a lot of time in understanding how I can calm my trauma reactions by engaging with my body to calm my brain reaction to stress. It’s been life changing for me.

    • Laura says:

      Happy to hear that you’re healing. <3

    • Aeren says:

      Thank you for sharing that! It’s super interesting and something I definitely want to look into more. Thank you Celebitchy and team for entertaining and informing me!!

  4. Jane says:

    My husband has Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and gut health is vital to his survival, so I’ve re-learned how to eat and exercise and relax since we married. The vegan, whole foods I rolled my eyes at years ago I now eat for every meal. Making exercise and relaxation and sleep hygiene routine are now nonnegotiable parts of my life. And I keep a Google Doc of everything I’ve learned about our health, doctors, prescriptions, you name it.

    • Emma says:

      I love that!

      I have been vegan for over 10 years. I can’t always afford to buy organic but I do my best. Also, a daily liquid probiotic changed my life — gut health is so important (I use Mary Ruth Organics).

  5. melissa says:

    Also remember you don’t need fancy, expensive probiotics. You can make probiotic foods at home for a tiny fraction of store-bought. Ideally take a fermentation course if you aren’t comfortable, but things like kefir, sauerkraut, kvass, pickles, miso…the list goes on!

    Kombucha is high in sugar so that’s the last one I recommend to folks. Vegetable based ferments are the best and a tablespoon of homemade kefir has more probiotics than most pills you buy in stores! Even if you don’t normally tolerate dairy well (like me) goat milk kefir does wonders for your gut.

    And prebiotics are key…garlic, onion, artichoke, asparagus, etc.

    • Sophieb9 says:

      Couldn’t agree more, @Melissa. Years ago I bought my milk and water kefir grains on Amazon, and I’ve never looked back. It’s super easy to make your own kefir. Milk kefir is the most ‘potent’. I alternate between a batch of cow’s milk and a batch of goat’s milk. The latter is light and for people who don’t digest lactose well. I physically feel the benefits when I’m drinking kefir regularly – usually a month and then a break. Plus it improves the strength of my nails. My grains are so many now that I give them away, and make kefir for friends.

    • kirk says:

      Had never had kvass before I made it a few months ago from a recipe on Food52. Ohmigosh, soooo delicious. The recipe didn’t instruct sterilizing the jar & lid, which is a basic step for any home canner. The recipe did say the leftover beets could be used in salad, BUT they will mold now since they’re wet and no longer in fermenting fluid so use within ~ a week. The beet kvass should last up to 3 months in the fridge if you can keep out of it for that long.

    • Aeren says:

      I’m basically copying and pasting your comment to my notes app. Thank you for this information!

  6. Beana says:

    Another cool fact: we have serotonin receptors in our brain…and also in our gut! I have chronic severe depression (currently in remission for 5 years and counting), and I take a daily SSRI to help me maintain my mental health. Symptoms of depression include changes in weight and appetite, so it makes sense that treatments need to be holistic in how they impact these systems in the whole body.

  7. SpankyB says:

    I’ve taken probiotics off and on for years and I do notice a difference when I’m not taking them. I read something years ago about a healthy body starting with a healthy gut and jumped on that bandwagon. I suck at remembering to take supplements but for the most part have stuck with probiotics. And magnesium. Humans are usually magnesium deficient.

  8. KBeth says:

    I’ve always really liked Maria Shriver!
    Forgive my ignorance…are there different kinds of probiotics & is there a recommended dosage? I’m currently taking Natures Bounty, every morning with breakfast.
    I did google but was overwhelmed by all the info, lol.

  9. MK says:

    I am a lifelong runner (40+ time marathoner) and have had Celiac for 20 years. My body started falling apart last year for no apparent reason, and all I got from dr after dr was “diet and exercise” or a recommendation to see a therapist (been seeing one for 20 years, this not being believed was triggering for me as I am a SA survivor). It was MADDENING. Finally two weeks ago as a last resort my GI offered me a take-home test a drug company rep had recently brought to the office. Two days later I am diagnosed with CSID (sucrose intolerance). Three days into the diet i feel like my old self again. Turns out all these “natural” sugars and sugar alcohols are as dangerous to me as cane sugar, and im going to have to avoid them for the rest of my life. My dr has never seen this in an adult before (it’s only in kids and Indigenous Greenlandic and Canadian adults).

    There is SO MUCH we don’t know about the gut yet. My dr is wonderful but she had no idea how to treat me. My GI was great but she had never seen this before. Anything that is diet-related tends to fall outside the category of “medical”, and once you leave “medical” it’s the Wild West. If any functional naturopath had tried to suggest this I would have ignored them, it sounds too restrictive and too insane (my new plan is way more restrictive than keto).

    I guess my point here is: gut and brain are linked, and even if you have a congenital diagnosis like Celiac you have a mountain to climb if a dr suspects your malady is related to your mental health, which means it could be caused by your mental health so they send you away from medicine (or turn you away completely). I can only imagine how much worse this would be for less privileged people or for people who dk t have insurance coverage like ours (which is AMAZEBALLS). I have no great love for Maria but this conversation is a super important one.

  10. Elsa says:

    I’m always suspicious when someone is trying to sell something. But I would like to have access to a Probiotic with some actual science attached to it. Clinical trials etc.

  11. Eggbert says:

    My health was a wreck after having two kids, and I saw five specialist who thought I had a blood disorder. Finally went to a Functional Medicine doctor who put me on a probiotic and it’s made a world of difference. It can take a year or more to get your gut back to its healthy state so stick with it.

    • Ladiabla says:

      I had covid in Dec 2020 and had to be hospitalized. Around 2 months after the second hospitalization in Jan 2021, the gut issues started. Whether it was from the covid or the antivirals they gave me at the hospital, it took a about a little over a year before I felt like myself again. The gastro dr told me my endoscopy didn’t reveal anything major, he just said something like, “you really just got hit hard by the covid”. There is just so much they don’t know. I’m vaccinated and boosted but terrified to get covid again because of the long term effects on the gut. I take a probiotic daily and I’ve given up milk and cheese since my stomach couldn’t seem to handle it any longer. You comment resonated with me Eggbert since it did take about a year or more for me to feel like myself again. It was awful, but I’m luckier than a lot of folks, so I’m grateful too.