A Healthy Gut Means a Healthy Brain
Do you suffer from brain fog, difficulty making decisions, or mood swings? Perhaps in these difficult times, you are feeling anxious or depressed. How about attention disorders, such as ADD or ADHD? If so, you’ve probably been told that these are personality traits that require medication. I’m sure your doctor has not suggested it has anything to do with your diet or your gut!
In my clinic, I found that the vast majority of psychological symptoms and mood imbalances aren’t a consequence of one’s genetic makeup. In fact, their presence is determined by a much more variable factor: what’s going on in your gut. Gut health is directly linked to brain health. Healing your gut and supporting your brain health with my Neurolive™ are critical for optimal cognitive function.
The Gut is the Second Brain
Conventional medicine views the body in distinct systems and psychological stressors as independent from the rest of the body. In reality, our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract.
This is because 90-95% of our serotonin, the key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, is made in our gut. A deficiency in serotonin causes depression and, in some, anxiety. In fact, the majority of antidepressants work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors. This frees up more of the chemical to remain present in the brain.
Serotonin and other vital neurotransmitters travel from the gut to the brain via the vagus nerve. This is the body’s longest nerve that emerges directly from the brain. Chemical signals travel both from the gut to the brain and vice versa. Because of this, those with gastrointestinal symptoms are at a higher risk of mood imbalances, anxiety, and depression.
To solve the problem and prevent future symptoms, you must address the root cause. Something is happening in the gut that suppresses your ability to make your serotonin.
How is Your Gut Causing Brain Symptoms?
Certainly, there are some psychological conditions that do not originate from gut imbalances alone. Post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and other conditions have significant genetic and environmental components. Depending on the type of disorder, medication and certain therapies might be necessary. Yet, fixing the gut is still critical to improving your condition.
That’s because the vast majority of psychological complaints begin in the gut. Brain fog, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and concentration issues are rooted in neurotransmitter imbalances. So how do these imbalances occur? Most people can attribute their symptoms to one or both of these causes: infections and food sensitivities.
Infections in the Gut
The two most common infections include Candida or yeast overgrowth and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The good bacteria that keep yeast levels in check can get out of balance, allowing the yeast to become too numerous. This can happen from taking a round of antibiotics or drinking too much alcohol. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, or using birth control pills over the long term can also have an impact.
The yeast then coats the lining of your intestinal tract and suppresses your ability to make or secrete serotonin. Candida or yeast also affects your brain and mood function by producing chemicals that are directly toxic to the brain. This is why so many of my patients who have Candida overgrowth complain of brain fog, poor memory, and depression or anxiety.
These common symptoms are not life-threatening, but they are undoubtedly distressing. By treating or killing the yeast, I’ve seen anxiety, depression, brain fog, attention, and concentration issues disappear entirely.
Similarly, SIBO occurs when the trillions of bacteria in our gut get out of balance and overgrow. This happens for many different reasons. However, the most common cause I see is from a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. Your bacterial flora has a direct impact on your mood and personality.
SIBO can affect your mood by causing B12 deficiency, and bacteria produce chemicals that mimic our neurotransmitters.1 One clinical study of mice found that adjusting their diet as well as their antibiotic and probiotic intake changed the type and balance of bacteria in their guts.2 This, in turn, changed the animals’ personalities and behaviors.
Changing your diet for just one day can have a significant impact on which bacteria thrive and which die in the gut.
Certain foods can cause psychological symptoms. Some are obvious — for example, caffeine exacerbates symptoms of anxiety — but others are more subtle. Dairy contains a protein called casein and wheat, barley, and rye contain a protein called gluten. Gluten and casein contain proteins that are naturally occurring opioids called casomorphins and gluteomorphins.
In susceptible individuals, eating dairy and gluten can act like a drug and cause a feeling of euphoria when eaten. Certain people are addicted to gluten and dairy. They crave it and have withdrawal symptoms if they don’t eat it every day.
Today’s fast-paced lifestyle has lead most of us to eat processed and packaged foods filled with gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. These foods are very inflammatory to most of us. They inflame our guts, leading to leaky gut, and they inflame our brains, leading to mood and mind disorders.
Leaky gut also affects our ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients, which, over time, can lead to vitamin deficiencies. The most common nutrient deficiencies I see are in Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and B vitamins. All of these are crucial for mood and mind health as well as brain function.
Healing Your Gut without Medication
The key to treating many of the most common psychological symptoms is recognizing one thing. Most are rooted in your gut, not your brain. The goal should be to restore the balance of your intestinal flora by treating bacterial infections and avoiding problematic foods. To identify which foods are a problem for you, try an elimination diet.
If you’re suffering from Candida overgrowth or SIBO, you must fix your gut! Avoid fermented foods, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. While you heal your gut, you can still focus on supporting the optimal health of your brain.
Optimize Brain Function
Support your cognitive function with my Neurolive™. It addresses the multiple pathways involved in neurological health by supporting oxidant and cytokine balance, methylation, mitochondrial function, and endocrine balance.
Each of the 11 micronutrients I chose to include in Neurolive™ supports cognitive function. I made sure to include select B vitamins, including Quatrefolic®, a patented form of 5-MTHF; the herbs Ginkgo biloba and Bacopa monnieri; nutrients that fight free radical activity; and brain-specific nutrients such as vinpocetine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and sunflower-derived phosphatidylserine which helps form healthy cell membranes in your brain.
Particularly for those experiencing stress and anxiety, these difficult days mean you should take extra care to support your optimal brain function. The factors with the most impact on your mental health are more controllable than you might think.
For More Information
Watch this excerpt from my Autoimmune Summit where I sit down with Dr. David Haase, a good friend and Founder/CEO of MaxWell Clinic in Nashville, Tennessee, to talk about the mind’s inflammatory burden in Overcoming the Fog, Fatigue, Fear, and Funk of the Autoimmune Brain.
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