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The Gut as the Second Brain (part 2)

Digestion and the Role of Brain Function

 If you missed (part 1) you can find it here

The enteric nervous system manages every aspect of digestion, from the messages sent by the brain and the interconnectedness of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. The second brain (enteric nervous system of the gut) is a network of neural circuitry, neurotransmitters and proteins.  Jackie D. Wood, professor of physiology, cell biology and internal medicine at Ohio State says, “Rather than Mother Nature’s trying to pack 100 million neurons someplace in the brain or spinal cord and then sending long connections to the GI tract, the circuitry is right next to the systems that require control.”

“What brains do is control behavior,” Wood said. “The brain in your gut has stored within its neural networks a variety of behavioral programs, like a computer. The digestive state determines which program your gut calls up from its library and runs.”

Research shows that foods contain messenger molecules that alter hunger, digestion, cravings, and weight, which certainly affects our health.  If you miss a meal, the gut is fairly silent other than sending a hunger signal.  However, if you eat junk food or a non-food like GMO alterations, gluten or other sensitivity/allergic substances, you create a cascade of inflammation and immune responses that can damage the gut or trigger autoimmune reactions.The ENS in the gut always evaluates what we put in our mouths, decides on the course of action and initiates multiple reflexes to carry out the message. The gut monitors pressure, the progress of digestion, it detects nutrients, and it measures acid and salts.  The ENS does all of these things on its own, with little input from the central nervous system.

Gut, Emotions and the CNS

We have all experienced an emotional stress affecting our digestion.  Most chiropractors would acknowledge seeing a spinal adjustment, spinal or visceral manipulation help digestion almost immediately.  Gary M. Mawe, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Vermont stated “Clinicians are finally acknowledging that a lot of dysfunction in GI disorders involves changes in the central nervous system. My experience is it is hard to say which comes first, physiology or psychology?”

The ENS and the CNS use the same hardware to run different software programs. For example, serotonin is crucial to feelings of well-being. The antidepressants known as SSRIs raise the level of serotonin available to the brain to make one feel less depressed.

A very interesting fact is that about 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. Here, it acts as a neurotransmitter and a signaling mechanism. The digestive process begins when a specialized cell, an enterochromaffin, squirts serotonin into the wall of the gut, which has at least seven types of serotonin receptors. These receptors communicate with nerve cells to start digestive enzymes flowing that start the food bolus moving through the intestines. Serotonin is the communicator between the gut and brain to keep both nervous systems in harmony.

Another very interesting fact is 90 percent of this information is traveling only one way, from the gut to the head.New research consistently shows that alterations in gut function also affect brain function.  When a patient comes into our office complaining of brain fog, difficulty concentrating, depression or a lack of energy, we first look at the gut.  Why? Because if that person has a Leaky Gut, they also have a Leaky Blood Brain Barrier and you can’t fix the brain until you fix the gut.

Key Point – The gut also contains 80% of the immune system, and it’s called GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue).

Most Americans have some degree of leaky gut.  If you look at the average person’s diet it’s full of trans- fats, sugar and refined carbohydrates.  These foods damage the lining of the gut and it becomes leaky.  In addition, most everyone has some low grade infection in the gut caused by poor diet and the over-use of antibiotics.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Once the gut becomes inflamed and leaky it allows undigested food particles, yeast and bacteria to cross the gut lining and into the blood circulation.  Once these things enter the circulation they cause inflammation in the lining of vessels in the brain, which leads to a leaky Blood Brain Barrier.  The Blood Brain Barrier (BBB), is usually very good at keeping yeast, undigested food particles, and bacteria out.  However, once the BBB becomes leaky these things are free to enter the circulation around the brain and create more inflammation.

These are the first steps in developing Auto-Immune conditions and some degenerative neurological conditions.  Once the undigested food particles, yeast and bacteria cross the leaky gut and enter circulation the immune system goes on red alert.  If the immune system stays on red alert very long at all, it starts reacting to all sorts of things, including your own tissues and organs.  Because larger proteins, and such are getting through the leaky gut, the immune system starts reacting to all sorts of foods that it did not previously.  This is when one starts having food allergies and sensitivities, and before long may develop irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea or both.

We have several highly effective treatments for Leaky Gut and irritable bowel.  First, I often use muscle response testing, or a Metabolic Screening Questionnaire to evaluate for GI dysfunction and its cause.  Once we have a good working hypothesis of what the problem is, we begin by making sure the patient is digesting properly.  I will often use Zypan, which is betaine hydrochloride to replace the deficient HCL (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach.  This is an important first step because if the stomach pH does not get down to around 2.0, you cannot digest proteins or kill off pathogenic organisms.  Also, if the pH doesn’t get down to around 2.0 (which is very acidic), none of the other digestive enzymes or hormones is ever secreted in sufficient amounts.

The second digestive enzyme we routinely use is AF Beta Food.  This product is concentrated Spanish Black Radish and a whole host of other synergistic nutrients designed to improve the formation and flow of Bile salts from the gallbladder.  If you don’t have a gallbladder or if yours isn’t working properly, you cannot digest fats or absorb fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins K, E, A and so on.  In that case, I recommend that you take Cholacol which is concentrated Ox Bile salts.  And if you don’t have a gallbladder, you will need to take it forever because it will become your surrogate gallbladder.

There are many more specialized products that I have come to love and trust in helping patients regain their health, and heal their gut and brain.  We utilize a variety of medical foods and synergistic blends of nutrients, for both the small and large intestine. We also utilize 3-4 advanced probiotics to reestablish the good, healthy bacterial flora in the gut.

If you are interested in learning more about how to finally heal your Gut and Brain, please call our office and we would be delighted to help. │ (541) 447-7230

This is a very fascinating subject. We will discuss it further in future emails and in our seminars.

We look forward to seeing soon.

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