The Link Between Gut and Brain Health

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There’s a saying in Naturopathic Medical School that was drilled into us: ‘When in doubt, treat the gut’. It still rings true and has guided me to help thousands of patients over the years. There is an indisputable connection between our gut and our entire body, especially our brain. Gut microbes communicate with our central nervous system which is our brain and spinal cord via signals within our endocrine, immune, and peripheral nervous systems.

A microbiome consists of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live naturally on and in our bodies. Microbes contribute to our health by providing immune and digestive support, as well as protecting us against pathogens. They are an interface between our bodies and the environment by acting as a buffer to make toxins less harmful. However, when our gut is compromised, pathogenic microbes can alter substances and make them more toxic.

This means that our organs such as our skin, which is our largest organ, along with other systems have their own unique microbiome. Our skin directly represents our gut health. Skin issues are a clue to look deeper into the gut. There are microbial sequences in pathological and non-pathological brains as well. This bi-directional interaction between the gut microbiome and the brain is called the gut-brain axis.

Gastrointestinal disorders have been linked to psychiatric and neurological conditions. If there is an offending agent within the communication loop of the brain and gut such as a parasite, candida, emotional stress, inflammation, toxin, nutrient deficiency or any other issue negatively affecting either system, there can be dysregulation throughout the entire circuit. The brain affects the gut via the autonomic nervous system by modulating gut motility, intestinal transit time, and gut permeability. Compounds released by the gut microbiome can travel to and enter the brain via the blood-brain barrier. Healthy compounds can promote brain wellness, while toxic ones can play a detrimental role in brain dysfunction. Research shows that bacteria in the gut of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, differs from those without the diseases. In addition, GI issues were present in most for decades prior to a diagnosis.

We must take a closer look at the gut!When digestive disturbance, cognitive impairment, mood disorder or a skin issue is present – I know the microbiome in the gut may be in major need of support. But the question is – what is wrong with the gut? Bloodwork is not sufficient in most cases. In order to implement an effective health plan, microbiome testing is needed. A microbiome test is a non-invasive stool test. It is critical to know precisely what the gut needs. Especially when nutrients are not being absorbed, the gut must be further analyzed. Find out which probiotics you need (low levels of good bacteria and presence of bad bacteria), acute/chronic pathogens, digestive and inflammatory markers – just to name a few. It provides information about which probiotics your specific gut needs and recommendations for your neurological, liver, metabolic, cardiovascular health and so much more. Don’t guess what’s going on in your gut, get tested properly!