March 27, 2022 5 min read
The question itself sounds preposterous at first: can an online word game help your physical health?
Wordle is a viral word game that has spread like wildfire worldwide since it appeared online in Fall 2021. Have you seen yellow, grey, and green boxes on Twitter or elsewhere online that almost look like Tetris or a Rubik's Cube?
Wordle is a daily word game you can find online here.
It's fun, simple, and, like a crossword puzzle, one can only play Wordle once per day. Every 24 hours, there is a new word of the day, and it's up to players to figure out what it is.
Wordle gives players six chances to guess a randomly selected five-letter word. If players have the proper letter in the right spot, it shows up as green. A correct letter in the wrong location shows up as yellow. A letter that isn't in the word at all shows up grey.
Well, consider the vagus nerve, for one. The vagus nerve carries an extensive range of signals from the digestive system to the brain and vice versa. It is the tenth cranial nerve, extending from its origin in the brainstem through the neck and the thorax down to the abdomen.
The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. It establishes one of the connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract and sends information about the state of the inner organs to the brain via afferent fibers.
Consider this from Frontiers in Psychiatry: "The stimulation of vagal afferent fibers in the gut influences monoaminergic brain systems in the brain stem that play crucial roles in major psychiatric conditions, such as mood and anxiety disorders. There is preliminary evidence for gut bacteria to have a beneficial effect on mood and anxiety, partly by affecting the vagus nerve activity. Since the vagal tone is correlated with the capacity to regulate stress responses and can be influenced by breathing, its increase through meditation and yoga likely contribute to resilience and the mitigation of mood and anxiety symptoms."
Essentially, engaging in a calming or pleasing activity can soothe the brain and in turn, calm the gut.
The main question posed in this article is a bit of a "trick question" because in reality, almost anything that leads to tranquility of the mind, could in theory, result in a positive effect on the gut.
However, there are two sides to the coin here.
While Wordle is an enjoyable or even relaxing distraction to some, it could cause anxiety for others. Stress and mental worries could relay negative signals to the gut — possibly causing GI distress.
But, we do know that at least one doctor has said that Wordle is flat-out good for the brain.
According to Dr. Amy Sanders, neurologist and Medical Director of the Hartford Healthcare Memory Care Center in Connecticut, any cognitively stimulating activity like a crossword or jigsaw puzzle or a word game has some protective effect on brain function.
"These types of activities are protective of cognitive function, and the more different kinds of activities you do, and the more difficult they are, the better off you are," said Dr. Sanders.
But some people have come to dislike Wordle — as one man penned in his article titled "I Resent 'Wordle'".
"Having a daily reminder to engage with a style of game that I don't particularly enjoy — and actively causes me embarrassment at my own incompetence — isn't exactly fun to me," writes Steven T. Wright.
Now, if you want to get "meta," — there is a game about the gut, which may also be good for the gut if you play.
The game is called "Gut Check."
Here's the official description of the game:
Gut Check is a game for 2-4 players where each player attempts to develop a healthy microbiome while interfering with the microbiomes of their opponents. Give your friends the plague, botulism and more! Go to work sick to get rid of a pathogen, take some probiotics, or have some lasagna (if you can digest it). The game takes 30-60 minutes to play, depending on experience and number of players.
And yes, this is a real game with cards, a board, player sheets, etc:
Gut Check was designed by a gamer, and draws on elements from a number of games including Pandemic, Magic The Gathering, and Dominion. While the game plays equally well with 2, 3, or 4 players the strategy changes in each case. Optimal play revolves around hand management, card cycling, striking a balance between building your own microbiome or playing cards to interfere with opponents, and timing various events. That being said, the game is based on current knowledge of the human microbiome and recent exciting research in this area. Through playing the game, one might accidentally learn about concepts such as antibiotic resistance, hospital-acquired infections, prebiotics, probiotics, opportunistic infections, and more.
Thus, playing "Gut Check" could have a positive effect on your gut health in two ways: it stimulates your brain, which sends signals to your gut and it teaches players about gut health topics such as prebiotics.
Knowing more about how prebiotics can help grow your good gut bacteria is essential.
Now, if you're still doubting that Wordle or any other game's ability to benefit your gut health, there are some more direct methods for improving your gut health:
Achieving good gut health is a holistic endeavor, which means there is not a single deus ex machina, that can swiftly and suddenly make things perfect.
Following a combination of consistent practices can make a difference, though.
The great news is that it's a difference you can actually feel — with better digestion, energy, and lessened discomfort.
So, whether it's a quick game of Wordle or some grilled asparagus for lunch, you can do something that can impact your gut health positively today!
Don't have the time, patience, or appetite to consistently eat foods such as asparagus, garlic, and semi-green bananas?
While whole food sources are the best way to get prebiotic fiber into your digestive system, you can also use a prebiotic supplement such as HMO powder.
HMO is a comprehensive prebiotic fiber proven to boost gut health, immunity, and cognitive function.
If you're looking for a brand of HMO supplements, Layer Origin Nutrition has the most comprehensive line of HMO prebiotics in the world.
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