Over the last ten years, there have been many study’s about the connection between the brain and the gut, or digestive tract. One of the studies is called, The Human Microbiome Project (HMP), a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative with the goal of identifying and characterizing the microorganisms which are found in association with both healthy and diseased humans (the human microbiome). It is important to understand the term microbiome, which is defined as the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit an environment, creating a sort of “mini-ecosystem”. Our human microbiome is made up of communities of symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria (along with fungi and viruses) all of which call our bodies home.
There are a number of research projects currently being funded in order to study the impact of the gut-micrbiome on the brain specifically. These question conditions like depression, anxiety, autism, cognitive function, memory and other neurological disorders. The research is confirming that the health of our digestive system does in fact impact the brain and it’s inner-workings.
‘Broadly defined, the gut-brain axis includes the central nervous system, neuroendocrine and neuroimmune systems including the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis), sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system including the enteric nervous system and the vagus nerve, and the gut microbiota.’
Why is this important for my health?
The health of our microbiome has an enormous impact on our bodies overall health.
1 - Inflammation
2 - Hormones
3 - Immune function
This is an over-arching issue for most people experiencing various health issues ranging from musculoskeletal conditions; tendonitis, arthritis, and other pain syndromes. It affects gastrointestinal problems from constipation to irritable bowel disease (IBD), crohn’s disease and many others. It affects metabolic syndrome including diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is even as far reaching as neurological disease like alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Inflammation begins from many sources including diet (sugars, refined carbohydrates, not enough fresh vegetables/fruits), chemicals (pesticides, environmental toxins, hormone-modulating plastics, cosmetic additives, etc.), pathogens (bacteria, yeast and fungus), and lastly, stress which releases a hormone called cortisol therefore triggering the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight).
Because the gut-microbiome is a major player in regulating your hormones, especially your estrogen, if there is an imbalance in the friendly bacteria, it can lead to PMS, infertility, cramping, low libido and other gynecological issues. An unbalanced ecosystem caused by stress, poor diet, and chemical exposure will increase the amount of ‘bad’ bacteria in the system and lead to toxic build up of hormones - meaning, they do not get recirculated through the system like they should.
Though there is still allot to be learned about the role of the gut and immune function, what we do know is that beneficial bacteria helps our bodies to tolerate and fight off harmful pathogens that might otherwise make us sick.
How do we heal?
Diet - eating a variety of organic fresh vegetables and fruit, hormone free meats, good quality fats and avoiding processed sugar, refined carbohydrates and hormone full dairy.
Reduce stress - take a bath, take a walk, get a hug, give a hug, breathe deeply in to your belly 4 or 5 times in a row, stretch, listen to music, read, call a friend, laugh, drink tea (chamomile, holy basil, passionflower or lemon balm), dance, take a nap, pet your furry friend, get a massage, get acupuncture.
Proper vitamin regiment - enhancing your health and nourishing your body on a micronutrient level can greatly improve how you feel in a shorter period of time.
Though it takes some education and effort, the rewards of improving your diet, mitigating stress, and generally finding balance in your life are abundant.
We here at Rutland Integrative Health are here to help you meet your health goals. Visit us on Facebook or sign up for our blog today at rutlandintegrativehealth.com.
Here's to your health!
Dalite Sancic, L.Ac., MS