“I’ve got a gut feeling about this”
As we at Rezilir Health help our patients build a better brain, we are increasingly impressed that one of the best strategies to help patients improve their brain function is to help them heal their gut. This approach can work on a wide variety of brain conditions including early cognitive decline, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression. The multiple connections between the gut and the brain that facilitate this approach include:
The enteric nervous system – Hidden in the walls of your digestive system are two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. This enteric nervous system is linked with the central nervous system intimately with signals that go in both direction. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system that can trigger emotional and mood chains. In addition, most of the neurotransmitters that affect brain function – GABA, dopamine, 5-HTP and others are produced in the gut and are affected by the quality of the diet you eat.
The microbiome – The typical adult has over 3 pounds of bacteria in the gut with over 2 million bacterial genes. As the Human Microbiome Project which was funded in 2007 continues to do it’s ground breaking research, there has become a significant shift in medicine towards appreciating how important it is to care for our gut bacteria. It’s not as simple as good bacteria vs. bad bacteria. Rather it is about rather having a healthy bacterial ecosystem that can help promote healing. Multiple scientific studies are beginning to show on how improvements in gut microbiome can reduce inflammation and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Inflammation – Many brain conditions and symptoms are driven by neuroinflammation. We can see inflammation occur in the body after a traumatic accident (e.g. the swelling and redness), but this type of inflammation is often hidden and hard to stop. Many of the sources of inflammation that affects the brain can start in the gut. For example, research on gluten shows that it can induce open up tight junctions in the gut which allows antigens to cross into the blood and stimulate the immune system. While we recognize this condition as celiac disease in a minority of people, further research has shown that gluten can have this affect on almost all adults, just to a lesser effect. Stimulation of the immune system and inflammation can also result in damage to the blood-brain barrier, making the brain much more susceptible to ongoing inflammation and exposure to toxins such as heavy metals. Stopping this inflammation in the brain is a critical part of our therapies, to do this effectively requires starting in the gut.
HOW TO BEGIN TO HEAL?
Here are four practical ways that you can improve your gut-brain connection and build a better brain
01 Eat healthy fats – we recommend a diet that eliminates refined carbs and grains and increases omega-3s and monosaturated fats to help the body to relearn how to use fats for fuel. Fats are the brain preferred source for fuel. In addition, we find that the use of medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) can often help clear brain fog.
02 Eat probiotic-rich foods – The best long way to induce healthy bacteria in the gut is to eat a diet high in fiber and vegetables as well as foods with high amount of fermentation such as sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, and yogurt. Sometimes additional supplemental probiotics can be necessary especially if there is trauma to the gut bacteria such as when patients are on antibiotics.
03 Avoid foods that can promote inflammation – Refined flours, sugar, high fructose corn syrup trans-fats, vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners collectively constitute more than 60% of the Standard American Diet and all promote gut and body inflammation.
04 Strategic supplementation. Natural anti – inflammatories such as Omega 3’s, curcumin, and resveratrol can all help to reduce overall inflammation in both the gut and the brain. Dosing can vary quite significantly for individuals.