Scientists are saying “YES.”
They are re-confirming what many doctors and researchers in the field of Integrative medicine have been saying for years — that gut health is intimately connected with the function of our brain.
The gut-brain connection is being implicated in brain disorders ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia (as it was in my own children).
One recent study showed that having normal gut bacteria during early life may result in resistance to not just intestinal problems, but to systemic autoimmunity and allergic responses. Why? The authors say the bacteria
"promote anti-inflammatory immune responses by expanding and activating regulatory T-cells. The finding has important implications for understanding how gut-resident bacteria affect both intestinal and systemic immune responses."What are T-cells and how does this tie in with mental illness? T-cells are the white blood cells that search and destroy foreign bodies that threaten the host. A healthy gut equals a healthy person.
But even more directly relating to the brain, is another study. In a communiqué from McMaster University via EurekAlert! , we find:
A lot of chatter goes on inside each one of us and not all of it happens between our ears.In a study using germ-free mice, Foster and colleagues found the functioning of genes (see epigenetics) linked to learning and memory are altered in the absence of germs. In particular, they found the genes functioning differently in one of the key brain regions for learning and memory -- the hippocampus.
Researchers at McMaster University discovered that the "cross-talk" between bacteria in our gut and our brain plays an important role in the development of psychiatric illness, intestinal diseases and probably other health problems as well including obesity.
"The wave of the future is full of opportunity as we think about how microbiota or bacteria influence the brain and how the bi-directional communication of the body and the brain influence metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes," says Jane Foster, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.
"The take-home message is that gut bacteria influences anxiety-like behavior through alterations in the way the brain is wired," said Foster.This study took place in the Brain-Body Institute, a joint research initiative of McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton. The institute was created to advance understanding of the relationship between the brain, nervous system and bodily disorders.
"We have a hypothesis in my lab that the state of your immune system and your gut bacteria -- which are in constant communication -- influences your personality," Foster said.She said psychiatrists, in particular, are interested in her research because of the problems of side effects with current drug therapy.
"The idea behind this research is to see if it's possible to develop new therapies which could target the body, free of complications related to getting into the brain," Foster said. "We need novel targets that take a different approach than what is currently on the market for psychiatric illness. Those targets could be the immune system, your gut function…we could even use the body to screen patients to say what drugs might work better in their brain."Gut health was definitely an intensely important factor in my children’s recovery from “mental” illness.
Many people address the gut issue on multiple fronts:
- Digestion from chewing to elimination, possibly using digestive enzymes.
- Probiotics (normal biota of the gut can be affected even from birth such as in the case of Caesarian Sections, but also later from antibiotics, poor diet, and illness).
- Prebiotics nutrients (such as arabinogalactan) and fiber to assist in the gut bacteria taking hold and flourishing).
- Attacking Candida overgrowth that typically occurs in the absence of normal gut bacteria (often done via a low sugar, low refined-carb diet (such as a person with diabetes or metabolic syndrome should eat) plus over-the-counter anticandidal agents, and occasionally prescription antifungal agents). Quest Diagnostics provides laboratory tests for systemic yeast. Regular insurance will hopefully cover these, just like any other blood work the doctor orders:
- Healthy diet – well-rounded with lots of whole foods and fiber.
- Eliminating foods which the person may be allergic or sensitive to. Food sensitivity testing can be done in different ways, such as:
- IgA testing (see www.enterolab.com)
- IgG blood testing (see here for an easy at-home kit, from the Life Extension foundation, which you mail in).
- There is even a urine test for gliadin (gluten – wheat, rye, barley) and casein (dairy): GPL Gluten-Casein (gliadorphin / casomorphin) Peptide Test
- Gluten Sensitivity and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
- Brain Health: The Gluten (Dis)Connection
- Brain Health: "Crazy" From Casein?? (Doped with Dairy)
- We Have Sick Children
- Bipolar and Off Her Meds
A Few Related Books and DVDs (see site for more):
Important Related Off-site Links:
- Food Sensitivities and Recipes
- Atypical and Typical Allergies - Doris Rapp, MD
- EnteroLab - Gluten Testing
- FoodSafe Allergy Blood Testing
- Great Plains Lab Gluten/Casein Peptide Urine Test
- TrueHope: Micronutrients
- The Gluten File
- The GFCF Diet for Children
- A Compromised Generation
-  K. M. Neufeld, N. Kang, J. Bienenstock, J. A. Foster. Reduced anxiety-like behavior and central neurochemical change in germ-free mice. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 2011; 23 (3): 255 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2010.01620.x
-  Induction of colonic regulatory T cells by indigenous Clostridium species.
-  'Knowing It In Your Gut' Is Real, Researchers Find
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Last Updated: 20 March 2012