The Importance of Gut Health
The Gut-Brain Connection
By Dr. Farzad Farahmand
The Gastrointestinal or the GI tract, also known as the Digestive tract, or more commonly the Gut, is part of an organ system called the Digestive System within humans and other animals which functions in taking in, breaking down and digesting food, in order to extract and absorb energy and nutrients, while expelling and getting rid of the remaining waste products. It mainly lines 4 separate organs that are included in the Digestive system. The Esophagus (the tube connecting the throat to the stomach), the Stomach, the Small Intestine and the Large Intestine.
Gut health, or the proper lining of our Gut, is an extremely important factor in our well being, since the lining of the Gut is considered as our body’s first line of defense against any foreign material or inflammatory agents such as Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi and Parasites. The mucus lining of our Gut serves as a selective barrier, allowing certain material to be absorbed into the Blood stream and into our body, while keeping out the harmful ones. When the lining of the Gut is healthy and intact, it tends to perform its gate keeping job properly. However, due to factors such as Emotional stress, the prolonged and the multiple use of prescription medications, consumption of unhealthy food or too much Alcohol, the presence of Bad Bacteria & such inflammatory agents as Candida and Parasites in the Gut, Environmental toxins and more, our Gut lining can become compromised and lose its integrity and the ability to perform its gate keeping job properly. This results in a condition known as, the Leaky Gut, which can lead to foreign material entering our body and causing Inflammation throughout the body.
Another extremely important factor to consider in Gut health is the proper ratio between the Good versus the Bad Bacteria in the Gut. There are over a 100 Trillion Bacteria living in our Gut. Some are Good or beneficial Bacteria (Probiotics) that help in supporting our immune system, as well as help in keeping our intestinal lining strong, and aid in the process of digestion and absorption of Vitamins and other nutrients, while others are Bad or harmful Bacteria that can cause Illnesses. The proper number of Good Bacteria (Probiotics) in our Gut, keep the Bad Bacteria in line, preventing them from causing us harm. However, in case of not having enough of the Good Bacteria, or an overgrowth of the Bad or the harmful Bacteria in the Gut, the proper ratio is disturbed, with the Bad Bacteria outnumbering the Good, resulting in a condition known as Dysbacteriosis, or Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can in turn result in an overgrowth of Yeast, Candida, Parasites, Bacteria, Viruses and other organisms, and can influence the integrity of the lining of the Gut leading to a Leaky Gut. Microorganisms, environmental toxins and other unwanted guests can then get absorbed into our blood stream causing Chronic Inflammation, which according to the latest research can be the root cause of many illnesses.
The 2 conditions of Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut can feed on each other in an endless cycle. As a result of Leaky Gut or increased intestinal permeability, Bad Bacteria can get absorbed into the Blood stream, causing a condition known as Endotoxemia, which is defined as Bacteria inside the Blood stream, triggering inflammation. More inflammation can mean more leak in the Gut, and more overgrowth of Bad Bacteria in the Gut leading to an increase in Dysbiosis. And Dysbiosis in turn, on its own, is one of the major causes of increased intestinal permeability or Leaky Gut, since the Bad or harmful Bacteria can directly damage and open up the tight junctions between the cells lining of the Gut.
Causes of Dysbiosis & Leaky Gut
1. Diet- Food is the number one influencer of Gut permeability and the Microbiome, which is the collective term referring to the population of both the Good, and the Bad Bacteria in the Gut as a whole. Some examples of healthy foods are fresh plants and vegetables with fiber and Phytonutrients. These foods have the ability to enter the ecosystem, or the environment of our Gut, and help feed our Good Bacteria to keep them healthy robust and strong. On the other hand, too much sugar, Alcohol, processed animal foods and processed fats can contribute to the overgrowth of the Bad bacteria, causing more inflammation and more Leaky Gut, and more Dysbiosis. Given our modern day lifestyle, and the the quality of our Standard American Diet, it's no longer a question of does a person have Dysbiosis or Leaky Gut, but rather it is more of a question of How much Dysbiosis or Leaky Gut does a person have.
2. Medication (Antibiotics & Antacids) - The second contributing factor to damaging intestinal lining, as well as promoting Dysbiosis is taking such medications as Antibiotics or Antacids (Thumbs). Antibiotics not only kill the Bad bacteria, but they also kill the Good Bacteria. In other words, they don’t discriminate between the 2, causing more Dysbiosis, and in turn more Leaky Gut. Antacids can also disturb the needed downstream flow of enough Acid from the stomach into the intestine to help balance the microbiome in order to prevent Dysbiosis. And taking multiple perscription medications over a long period of time can also be considered as another cause of disturbances in our Gut Health.
3. Stress- Stress hormones such as Cortisol can directly influence the Gut’s intestinal lining and our Microbiome.
4. Herbicides such as Glyphosate- Can directly cause damage to the Tight junctions between the cells lining of the Gut and cause Leaky Gut. This is more reason to choose eating organic foods whenever possible.
5. Gluten- Gluten is also known to damage Tight junctions in the lining of the Gut, increase intestinal permeability and cause Leaky Gut.
An unhealthy Gut lining and an imbalance in the Microbiome ratio, can be one of the major causes of a variety Physical as well as Emotional symptoms of various illnesses, and we will learn in the later parts of this article the role that our Gut Health plays in the health of our Brain and the health our Nervous System.
Besides keeping a healthy, Gluten Free and organic diet, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, minimizing our sugar intake, staying away from eating processed foods, exercising and practicing Stress management and relaxation techniques to minimize our stress levels, it is very important to also take steps to restore the proper ratio of the Good versus the Bad Bacteria in our Gut to reverse Dysbiosis, to heal and seal the lining of our Gut, and add the proper Digestive Enzyme supplementation to our diet.
Helping the body remove excess Pathogens and Bacterial imbalances in the intestines is often the first step in helping the body to correct Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Synergistic, easy to follow Botanical and Enzyme supplementation Formulas and programs are available that are specific for removing and getting rid of the Bad Bacteria in the Gut, while sparing the Good Bacteria (Probiotics), so that beneficial species of Bacteria can proliferate and dominate the niches that help regulate health. Afterwards, the Good Bacteria (Probiotics) in the Gut can be restored, replaced and added in through highly potent Probiotic supplementation, in an effort to reverse Dysbiosis, and restore proper balance to the Microbiome.
GI Pathogen purge Protocols specifically address Pathogens such as Illness causing Bacteria, Yeast, Fungi, Viruses and Endotoxins.
Supplementing synergistic Digestive Enzymes is extremely important in better absorption of nutrients, and hence better elimination of Toxins from the body.
Reversing Leaky Gut
Once Dysbiosis is addressed through killing the Bad Bacteria and re-seeding the Gut with the beneficial Probiotics, Synergistic easy to follow supplementation programs are available to restore proper integrity and health to the lining of our Gut or the Selective Blood Gut Barrier. Nutrients and Botanicals such as the Amino Acid Glutamine, Curcumin the active ingredient in Turmeric, and short chain Fatty Acids such as Butyrate are known to be effective in repairing, healing and sealing the lining of the Gut, and in reversing Leaky Gut, as well as reducing inflammation.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Naturopaths have known for hundreds of years that as the Gut goes, so goes the Brain. As the Digestive problems clear up, the Anxiety and the Depression can go away and our mood can enhance and improve. The reverse has also been shown to be true. As we get anxious, depressed and are in a bad mood, we start to feel butterflies in our stomach, and can develop Digestive problems. Chronic inflammation and Tissue damage in our Gut, can have a direct impact on the Neurotransmitters in our Brain such as Serotonin and Dopamine which are mainly synthesized in our Gut.
Modern science in recent decades is just beginning to come to the understanding and integrate this old concept into developing better ways to achieve Brain and Digestive health. Just as we can have the condition of Leaky Gut, we can also have a condition called the Leaky Brain. Just as we have a selective barrier lining our Gut discussed above, we also have a selective barrier separating our Brain from our Blood stream called the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). This selective barrier allows certain material into the brain, while keeping others from entering the Brain. And similarly, for the same reasons as the lining of the Gut can get compromised causing Leaky Gut, the Blood Brain Barrier can also get compromised & open up, allowing in certain material that are not supposed to enter or leak into the Brain, causing inflammation in the Brain, also known as Neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation can be the cause of many symptoms such as Depression, Anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Memory problems ultimately leading to Alzheimer’s Disease, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Sleep Disorders and more. Many Brain related issues can be traced back to a Gut issue that if resolved, can clear up the symptoms.
Some treatments, for example treating Depression with an Amino Acid supplement that supports Dopamine production, are symptomatic, while other treatments look to resolve the underlying cause of the problem. The underlying cause of the symptom of Depression can be Chronic inflammation, resulting from Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut. While supplements that support Dopamine production can relieve some of the symptoms of Depression, the cause of the problem will still remain unaddressed.
By addressing Leaky Gut and Dysbiosis to ensure our Gut health, by reducing general inflammation in the body through diet, lifestyle changes and special dietary supplementation, and by reducing Neuroinflammation in the Brain through the use of available synergistic Nutritional and Botanical supplements, we can address the underlying cause of many Physical and Emotional symptoms, and minimize the possibility of their relapse.
I hope that I’ve been able to effectively paint the big picture of the importance of Gut Health, and the role that it can play in the health of our Brain.
Before starting on any Protocol, it is highly recommended to go through the 3 Phase, 3 month long Cellular Detoxification Program as the first step in the Illness to Wellness Protocol. For more information, please visit my article titled, Cellular Detoxification, Body / Brain. And for more detailed information on the 5 categories of Causal factors for illnesses beyond symptoms, you are welcome to visit my article titled, From Illness to Wellness.
As always, I wish all of you a well deserved lifetime of Heath, Joy, and Peace of Mind.
Dr. Farzad Farahmand
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For more information, or a Free phone or in office consultation, please call: 818 501 2000
Farzad Farahmand, D.C.
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Woodland Hills, Ca. 91367