We’ve all had to do something scary at some point in our lives….like give a speech to a room full of people or willingly jump out of an aeroplane just for fun. Suddenly you start to feel clammy, your heart begins to pound, your stomach starts to churn, you feel nauseated or you may even get a sudden case of the runs. Ugghh! You’re aware of all the different feelings in your head, chest and stomach. It’s why you can know for sure that the nervous system and the gastrointestinal system are closely connected.
The Gut-Brain Axis
This communication system going on between your gut and your brain is known as the gut-brain axis. Naturopaths know all too well that you can’t heal a distressed gut without looking at stress and emotion too. They’re all communicating and very much connected.
A problematic intestine sends signals to the brain and a brain with problems sends signals to the gut. It is fascinating knowing that your brain and gut are sending nerve signals back and forth, confirming the brain-gut connection. Studies show how neurological concerns can result in digestive issues and vice versa.
If you experience any kind of chronic mental health or cognitive condition, then a leaky gut may be to blame. If you battle with things such as depression, brain fog, headaches and anxiety, there is a good possibility that leaky gut is a factor. In addition to these symptoms you may also experience frequent infections, skin problems, low energy, allergies, sinus congestion and joint or chronic muscle pain.
What the hell is leaky gut?
The gastrointestinal tract has two main functions;
a) to digest and absorb important nutrients for the body’s growth and function
b) to act as a barrier to keep harmful substances and microorganisms from entering the blood stream. When the integrity of this complex system is disturbed and intestinal hyper-permeability exists, ill-health can easily develop. Many conditions such as autoimmune disorders, autism, food sensitivities, inflammatory bowel disease and jaundice are associated with intestinal permeability, which is also known as leaky gut.
Think of your gut lining like a spaghetti colander, it’s meant to have small holes to let the water and trace nutrients pass through. In the instance of leaky gut, those holes are a lot wider due to inflammation, eating the wrong foods or a parasitic/candida infection. This means larger things like food remnants, bugs and inflammatory substances pass through into the blood stream. These substances essentially tip off and irritate the immune system, which gets all excited and creates a compounded inflammatory response, resulting in the symptoms mentioned above.
Leaky Gut and Leaky Brain go Hand in Hand!
The blood vessels in the brain are insulated from harmful substances that could be detrimental. Research has shown that leaky guts release antibodies that are able to cross right into the brain, creating inflammation. This leads to brain fog, fatigue, headaches, anxiety and dramatically reduced cognitive performance.
Blame it all on Leaky Gut?
Naturopaths theorize that with many auto-immune, mental, cognitive and allergenic conditions, leaky gut is often present. This means that if you have been diagnosed with the likes of hashimotos thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis, you need to first look at the state of your gut health.
Gut health is important for your body and your mind, with the gut being made up of a host of microbes that keep your body and brain functioning properly. Gut microbes affect the way you store fat, how you respond to hormones and how you balance glucose in the blood. The wrong mix may result in obesity, insulin resistance, PCOS, mood disorders and countless other conditions.
Gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters which regulate mood. A nervous system in your gut, known as the second brain, communicates with the brain, playing a role in mental health and diseases. In essence, the wellness of your body and brain depends on your gut health.
Microbiome Imbalances Lead to Less Serotonin
Lifestyle and food choices have a major impact on health. The human gut has a lot of bacteria known as the microbiome. When the balance of bacteria is negatively disrupted, it is known as dysbiosis. This gut dysbiosis can contribute to many health problems in both kids and adults. Microbiome imbalances can lead to reduced production of serotonin, which can cause significant problems in the brain related to mood, anxiety, energy, and sleep.
Enhance your microbiome with healthy foods!
Naturopaths know that one of the best things you can do to nourish good bacteria in your gut is to consume healthy and bio-compatible foods.
Other useful foods and supplements include…
- High fibre foods that are good for gut bacteria – fruits, vegetables, nuts
- Omega 3 fats found in oily fish
- Polyphenol-rich foods: – green tea, cocoa, coffee, olive oil
- Tryptophan-rich foods – tryptophan is an amino acid converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin – eggs and lean protein meats such as turkey.
You are what you Eat
You are what you eat may well be an overused cliché, but what you eat is very important. People wanting to enjoy better physical and mental health will benefit from shifting from a diet based on fatty meats, carbs and processed foods to one that puts emphasis on plants. Plants offer us vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytonutrients. These phytonutrients have the ability to enhance the body’s self-protective powers. Get your gut right and you will be able to increase your life span, look younger and live in excellent health.
When you start to see the connection between brain and gut by following naturopathic principals, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to experience a healthier immune response, better toileting habits, improved weight stability, moods, energy and cognitive ability.
How can I find out the state of my gut?
There are a number of recommended investigations during a naturopathic consultation that can give you a solid overview of your gut health. These include…
- Intestinal permeability testing (Leaky gut test)
- GI Mapping – This gives insight into the state of your intestinal health and microbiome species…both good and bad.
- Food compatibility testing – The Hair test for 600 items is a great way to identify inflammatory causing foods and personal care products that may be impacting your health and contributing to your symptoms. What may be considered a healthy and health giving food for one person is poison to another person. The food compatibility test helps identify and tailor a specialized dietary program made just for you!
Once we have identified what’s going on inside, an individualized strategy to repair your gut will be discussed and implemented. Depending on your unique needs and the state of your gut health and symptoms, gut repair treatments can vary anywhere from a few months in mild cases and up to 1-2 years in severe cases.
Ready to fix your leaky gut and feel a whole lot better? Make an appointment today!