The Gut Brain #2 Does DisEase begin there?

There is a super highway between the brain and GI system that holds great sway over humans

A primal connection exists between our brain and our gut. We often talk about a “gut feeling” when we meet someone for the first time. We’re told to “trust our gut instinct” when making a difficult decision or that it’s “gut check time” when faced with a situation that tests our nerve and determination. This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at your two ends. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach after looking at your post-holiday credit card bill is a vivid example of the brain-gut connection at work. You’re stressed and your gut knows it—immediately.

The enteric nervous system is often referred to as our body’s second brain. There are hundreds of million of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling the gastrointestinal system. This vast web of connections monitors the entire digestive tract from the esophagus to the anus. The enteric nervous system is so extensive that it can operate as an independent entity without input from our central nervous system, although they are in regular communication. While our “second” brain cannot compose a symphony or paint a masterpiece the way the brain in our skull can, it does perform an important role in managing the workings of our inner tube. The network of neurons in the gut is as plentiful and complex as the network of neurons in our spinal cord, which may seem overly complex just to keep track of digestion. Why is our gut the only organ in our body that needs its own “brain”? Is it just to manage the process of digestion? Or could it be that one job of our second brain is to listen in on the trillions of microbes residing in the gut?

The microbiome is one of the most fascinating health topics for me to learn about and share, in part because it's hard to grasp its vastness and importance.

This intelligent bacterial ecosystem in your gut makes up the majority of your immune system, and your body actually contains 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells! You are, in truth, actually more bacteria than human, a sort of vehicle or host for the microbiome.

The Microbiome Connection

What sounds like science fiction is actually fact! These trillions of microbes and their colonies are the manufacturers and managers of how you look, feel and think. Researchers are quickly learning how much it regulates just about every system of your body.

Conditions such as leaky gut syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can do a number on your microbiome. As the age-old Hippocratic saying goes, "All disease begins in the gut"; when your microbiome is weakened or damaged, it can "switch on" a number of potential disease processes throughout the body.

1. Autoimmune conditions

The last century has seen a rapid rise of autoimmune diseases. As of now, there are around 100 recognized autoimmune conditions and about 40 other diseases that have an autoimmune component. Because 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, it is no surprise that a damaged microbiome and leaky gut syndrome is a precondition for autoimmunity.

2. Mental health disorders

Your gut and brain are inextricably through the communication lines that are referred to as the gut-brain axis. In the medical literature, your gut is actually referred to as "the second brain." An unhealthy microbiome has been linked to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

3. Poor immune health

Should be no surprise here, but if you find yourself sick often, you'll want to know your microbiome health. Chronically low immune system health can be largely due to weak a microbiome health; an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, yeast or fungus; or a parasite.

4. Heart disease

A possible correlation between the microbiome and cardiovascular disease was recently found. Certain bacteria produce higher levels of TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) which is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. It still unclear which microorganism produces more TMAO, but researchers are hoping that, in the future, manipulation of microbiome species can help in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

5. Type II diabetes

This chronic degenerative disease recently been linked to microbiome disturbances. One study found that transplanting the microbiome of diabetic mice into healthy mice made them diabetic as well!

6. Skin conditions

Skin problems like acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis all have a microbiome and inflammatory-autoimmune component to them. For many, the missing link to healing their skin issues is healing their microbiome.

7. Weight gain and obesity

An imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome has been shown to cause weight loss resistance and obesity. Studies in mice found that overweight mice had a higher amount of the Firmicutes bacteria, while thin mice had a higher proportion of Bacteroidetes. In the human cases, the beneficial bacteria called Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to be helpful for weight loss in women.The microbiome factor in weight gain cases is a key component for many to lose weight their body has been holding on to for years.

8. Acid reflux

Millions of people suffer from acid reflux, or the more serious GERD. These problems are correlated with a microbiome dysfunction called SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

9. Cancer

A fascinating study out of the University of North Carolina suggests that damage and inflammation of the gut severely decreased the variety of bacterial species in the microbiome. This loss of microbiome diversity allowed a pathogenic bacterial overgrowth of E. coli. Eighty percent of mice with E. coli infection developed colorectal cancer.

10. Constipation or diarrhea

This is obvious, but digestive problems are so common, it's important to mention. One study found that there was significantly lower amounts of the bacteria Prevotella and increased levels of Firmicutes in constipated patients. Interestingly, the conventional probiotics that people take, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, were not decreased in the microbiomes of the constipated patients.

11. Asthma and chronic sinus infections

Dysbiosis of microbiome bacteria and an overgrowth of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, was shown to be a frequent underlying culprit for asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). Welcome To The Age Of The Microbiome

Some have predicted that this year will be the year of the microbiome. Over the coming years, as we continue to learn more about the microbiome, I suspect this might become the decade of the microbiome.

Definitions:

Microbiome - Each of us has an internal complex ecosystem of bacteria located within our bodies that we call the microbiome. The microbiome is defined as as “community of microbes.” The vast majority of the bacterial species that make up our microbiome live in our digestive systems.

Dysbiosis - Dysbiosis is a term for a microbial imbalance that most often affects a person’s digestive tract. That being said, dysbiosis can also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, ears, nose, sinuses, nails, and vagina. Dysbiosis is also sometimes called dysbacteriosis or bacterial dysbiosis. That is because the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) contains both “good” and “bad” bacteria to form the gut flora—also called the gut microbe. But, other tiny organisms also reside in the gastrointestinal tract, including yeast, fungus, viruses, and parasites.

Inflammation - There are two different types of inflammation. One type is acute inflammation; The other is chronic. While acute inflammation starts quickly and generally disappears in a few days, chronic inflammation can last for months or years as a result of failure to eliminate the cause and minor, repeated exposure to the agent. A poor diet, stress, minor food allergies, a sedentary lifestyle and more can contribute to chronic inflammation.

Leaky Gut/Leaky Gut Syndrome - Essentially, leaky gut syndrome (“intestinal hyperpermeability”) is condition that happens as a consequence of intestinal tight junction malfunction. These “tight junctions” are the gateway between your intestines and what is allowed to pass into the blood stream. Your tight junctions keep things out like toxins, microbes and undigested food particles. When this happens it causes inflammation throughout your body leading to a variety of diseases.

Autoimmune Disease - Our bodies have an immune system, which is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. At the core of the immune system is the ability to tell the difference between self and nonself: what's you and what's foreign. A flaw can make the body unable to tell the difference between self and nonself. When this happens, the body makes autoantibodies that attack normal cells by mistake. At the same time, special cells called regulatory T cells fail to do their job of keeping the immune system in line. The result is a misguided attack on your own body. This causes the damage we know as autoimmune disease. The body parts that are affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease.

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