The Gut-Brain Connection and Your Health
The microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria, and plays a major role in many aspects of our health. Recent research is finding that our microbial population affects a wide range of health conditions, including: autoimmune diseases, obesity, Crohn’s, colitis, depression, anxiety, asthma and allergies. There is emerging science in the relationship of gut biology and women’s vaginal health, brain-gut relationship, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity. The impact of environmental toxins, antibiotics and diet influence the gut microbiome. To survive these potential risks there are foods and healthy practices that can improve the gut flora.
The state of our microbiome relies on how our system properly digests and absorbs the nutrients from the food we eat. Since gut health can affect such a broad range of conditions, it gained prominent attention within the scientific community, social media and health food industry. Included in this post are discussions, posts and research that connects the dots of your health, as influenced by the Gut-Brain Connection.
Leaky Gut = Fatigued, Inflamed and Depressed
The Gut-Brain Axis
Chris Kressor of The Healthy Skeptic Podcast discusses The Gut-Brain Axis in episode #9. This is a great overview of The Gut-Brain Relationship.
When you’ve got an inflamed brain it can be really tricky to reduce that inflammation without some outside help. So, you’ve got an inflamed brain and the inflammation in the brain decreases nerve conductance and that in turn causes depression and reduced activity of the vagal motor nuclei, and of course then we’re back where we started. That reduced activity of the brain reduces the output into the vagus, and that causes more digestive problems, more inflammation in the gut, more inflammatory cytokines to be in the bloodstream and up into the brain and we’re stuck in this really vicious cycle.
Contributors to a Leaky, Unhealthy Gut
Our modern lifestyle directly contribute to unhealthy gut flora.
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and process foods
- Diets low in fermentable fibers
- Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial oils
- Chronic stress
- Chronic infection
From the Journal, Gut(2015) Andrey Morgun and colleagues are making strides to Uncovering effects of antibiotics on the host and microbiota using transkingdom gene networks.
Researchers have discovered that antibiotics have an unwanted impact on the micro-organisms that live in an animal’s gut that’s more broad and complex than previously known. A study has helped to explain these processes, which are now believed to affect everything from the immune system to glucose metabolism, food absorption, obesity, stress and behavior.
This will be an important advance in the ability to develop probiotics that offset the effects of antibiotics. Importantly, the system may lead to personalized health management of the microbiota by:
- diagnosing a person’s microbiome
- identifying individual deficiencies
- addressing individual treatment options
How You Feel with a Leaky Gut
There are many signs and symptoms of a leaky gut. Paying attention to your body and how it manages different foods, environmental conditions and your mental state is a great way to take charge of your health.
Signs and Symptoms:
Food sensitivities– the culprit here is often dairy and gluten allergies.
Autoimmune disease– the result of your body’s defense system attacking itself when hyperpermeability of the intestines occurs.
Inflammatory bowel disease– elevated gut permeability in the colon may lead to conditions such as ulceritive colitis and inflammatory bowel syndrome
Inflammatory skin conditions– an often overlooked cause of skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema and acne are often the cause of gut hyperpermeability. Topical applications of skin cream only mask the problem. Getting to the cause is what counts.
Mood and cognition conditions– there a number of neurocognitive disorders that include depression, brain fogginess, and autism caused by the “leaky brain syndrome”. This is a result of an inflammatory state of the brain.
Thyroid problems- this is a form of autoimmune response that can leave one feeling fatigued, depressed, and with impaired metabolic issues such as weight gain.
Malabsorption of nutrients– the deficient digestion of food results in poor absorption of nutrients. Whole foods, adequate fiber, digestive enzymes and probiotics all help to maintain a healthy flora in the gut.
Many of these symptoms we experience today are caused by a leaky gut. People who suffer from this condition will actually absorb food particles from their digestive tract into their blood, which causes immune and allergic reactions. Our bodies are designed to break down our foods into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple carbohydrates in order to use them for energy and repair. Exposed to undigested particles from our food, our bodies react to these particles as invaders. The intestinal lining is the first line of defense when it comes to pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses) entering the bloodstream and communicating with the brain. The net result is a compromised immune system that contributes to illness and disease.
Amy Meyers MD describes the Healthy Gut as Pillar 1 of Healing the Autoimmune system.
Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health because 80% of your immune system is located there. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
Eating Your Way to a Healthy Gut
The symptoms of poor gut health are many. We all have unique bacterial populations in our GI tract, and for that reason, it can be difficult to predict which foods will improve gut health for us individually.
What is important is to make the decision to make changes in your diet. You may gain much by reading the Elimination Diet by Tom Malterre. In a Bulltetproof podcast #202 – Gluten, the Gut Microbiome, and the Elimination Diet, Tom Malterre states:
The comments I get all the time at the end of the elimination diet is “I feel 20 years younger. Oh my gosh. I had no idea that I had memory left. I had no idea that I could think ahead to what I’m going to do next month, and be totally positive and excited about it.” All these things about brain function. Bare-bones minimum, 28 days. Prefer 50 days just for the gluten stuff. What happens in this program is- you’re right- I get rid of all of the things that I’ve seen in clinical practice for 10 years that have been contributing to people’s joint pain and what not. Gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, nightshades. The list goes on for a little bit. What I would say is, if you take all those foods out at the same time, then the immune system can calm down.
There is a long list of food avoids that have detrimental effects on the gut microbiome.
The question is:
What Foods and Supplements Contribute to a Healthy Gut Microbiome?
Below is a list of foods and supplements that contribute to a healthy gastrointestinal system.
Probiotics– Probiotics are bacteria in the body’s digestive tract that are beneficial to the body in many ways including immune function and nutrient absorption. Probiotics are found naturally in foods such as unpasteurized raw cultured yogurt, miso (rye, beans, rice or barley) commonly found in Japanese Miso soup, and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
Collagen– adding collagen to your diet can benefit the intestine and connective tissues of the body. Our digestive tracts are composed of the same amino acids that are abundant in collagen. Taking supplemental collagen can support repair of the sensitive lining and infrastructure of the intestinal lining.
Fiber– the addition of fiber is a major contributor to gut health and supports the microbial colony in the gut(prebiotic). It is recommended that 40 grams of fiber a day be consumed to maximize heart and digestive health. Fiber is important for healthy weight loss and blood sugar control.
Enzymes– Enzymes help completely break down proteins, complex sugars and starches which can reduce intestinal inflammation. A recommended product that supports digestive health is Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar provides healthy enzymes and minerals. Just make sure to mix with distilled water. Tap water is already taking its’ toll on your gut.
Quercetin– a supplement that helps to seal the gut and reduce inflammation.
The best change for improving your health, and a fit gut microbiota, is giving more attention to the foods you eat. What foods can you include, eliminate and combine to make a change in your diet. Whether you are Paleo, Vegan or just trying to make healthier choices is taking personal responsibility for a healthier brain, gut and immune system.
There are many resources available to learn more about Leaky Gut, the microbiome that makes for healthy gut flora, and foods and supplements that will contribute to a healthy gut and brain.