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Wellness

Optimizing Your Brain-Gut Connection

If you struggle with mood swings, anxiety, and/or foggy thinking, you are not alone—far from it. The good news is that there are modifications you can make to your lifestyle that will enable you to get back to feeling more like your old self again. Could you believe that your brain-gut connection could be the answer?

Balancing your gut microbiome could be the answer, not another trip to the doctor for a prescription.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

The most direct path to our brain—and peace of mind—is through our digestive tract. Did you know that your gut has more neurons than your brain? It’s true. And the gut and brain are so interconnected that when the gut microbiome is out of balance, it can manifest as sugar cravings and brain dysfunction.

Gut on Fire Equals Brain on Fire

This connection is so integral that within hours of a traumatic brain injury, the gut becomes inflamed!

A gut on fire is often populated by opportunistic bad bacteria which can cause cravings and foul moods, as well as leaky gut syndrome when the intestinal barrier breaks and allows undigested food particles to “leak” into the bloodstream. When this happens, the immune system responds by producing antibodies that can trigger brain dysfunction and autoimmune conditions.

When the intestinal wall is permeated repeatedly, it can lead to cognitive decline. Gentle, effective treatment protocols can help recover optimal gut functioning, which balances the brain and slows neurodegeneration.

The first step is understanding the modifiable lifestyle factors that are within your control for a balanced gut and brain.

Brain-Gut Connection

10 Lifestyle and Environmental Triggers

  • Sugar, in all its forms
  • Refined starches
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Environmental toxins
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Antibiotics
  • Many common medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, birth control pills, pain medications such as NSAIDs
  • Genetically-modified organisms in foods
  • Lack of healthy fats (from grass-fed animals, cold-water fish, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil) and consumption of unhealthy trans fats and industrial cooking oils (seed oils such as canola and soybean)

“If I’d Only Known Then What I Know Now…”

I’ve personally engaged in every one of these factors, but with age comes wisdom, and now I know better and do better…and feel better!

The brain-gut connection is a very personal topic for me. Growing up, my dad was diagnosed as both manic depressive and paranoid schizophrenic. As you can imagine, home life was difficult. He didn’t like the way the psychotropic drugs made him feel, so he often didn’t take them. Dad passed away a decade before I was introduced to Functional Medicine and the brain-gut connection. He popped antacids like they were candy; an acidic-feeling stomach is a sign of gut dysfunction, which is treatable. Even though my education in this field came too late for him, it is my mission to spread the word about the marvelous healing power of our bodies. We have miraculous regenerative capabilities when we support them properly.

May you have a balanced gut and a balanced brain.

A Functional Medicine Practitioner

brain-gut connection

In the Functional Medicine community, a two-step protocol is often used for gut restoration and detoxification. In this protocol, a practitioner will guide you through a month of gut restoration which includes refraining from inflammatory foods (e.g. grains, dairy, sugars, legumes, caffeine, alcohol), consumption of nutrient-dense foods (the rainbow of vegetables and berries, pastured meat, cold-water fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats), and supplemental support that often includes l-glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and herbal antimicrobials. Once the gut is repaired—and it can happen quickly—the second month’s focus is a gentle, yet powerful, detoxification protocol.

A wonderful benefit is that when your brain-gut connection is in balance, you don’t have sugar cravings or need willpower—your body will intuitively want the food it runs best on.

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