“All Disease Begins in the Gut” — Hippocrates
Have you noticed that people are becoming more and more short-tempered, depressed, moody, sick and obese? I can’t recall a day that goes by that someone doesn’t cut me off in their car, yell at someone in a store, or can’t seem to concentrate on what is going on around him or her. It is also hard to ignore that more and more children are autistic, or are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Why? Most answers point to the Standard American Diet – grains, sugars, industrial seed oils, processed foods that we were not meant to consume at all, much less in the exorbitant quantities we do. These “foods” are toxic to the gut and brain. All health begins and ends in the gut, and since that is the case, we need to pay attention to what we are putting in there!
Trust Your Gut
You know that feeling, deep down inside you. The one that tells you something is right, something is wrong, when to be cautious, when to throw care to the wind. That sense that something is important but it does not appear to come from an idea or thought. Is it intuition? Instinct? It is a feeling in your gut. But where does it come from?
In humans, approximately 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. There is a protective layer in our digestive system that works to keep foreign particles and pathogens out of our blood stream to keep us healthy. There are millions of beneficial bacteria that protect us from invasion everyday, every time we consume food, water and air. But that’s not all. The vagus nerve connects our guts to our brains, sending signals back and forth. This is often called the gut-brain axis. There are more and more studies being done finding that there is more to “gut feelings” than just a feeling – that quite possibly there is actual communication between the gut flora and our brains, giving some credence to the idea that gut feelings are truly trying to tell us something. The more we learn, the more we discover that the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria can not only affect our health, weight and digestion, it can also affect our mood, behavior and the way we think.
No Guts, No Glory
But what if the flora in your gut is out of balance? If helpful flora is being depleted by antibiotics, poor diet, stress, and infection, does this negatively affect the messages our brain receives from the gut? Most studies point to yes. There is considerable research out there showing that anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, ADD, ADHD, and even autism & autism spectrum disorders are borne out of unbalanced gut flora. Folks with these neurological issues appear to be controlled by the messages the harmful flora are sending to the brain! Imagine not being able to trust your own instincts!? The studies illustrated in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) by Natasha Campbell McBride contends that all people with these mental illnesses and neurological disorders have some form of gut imbalance. Many people with autism or autism spectrum disorders like Aspergers Syndrome, or people with schizophrenia crave a diet high in sweets even more than most people, often refusing to eat other healthier food. In these cases, Dr. Campbell-McBride theorizes that the harmful bacteria in the gut are most likely responsible for sending signals to the brain to crave these foods. Once the person eats the sugary foods, the sugar – already well known to be fodder for diseases like cancer, diabetes & obesity – feeds the harmful bacteria so they can continue to flourish and dominate the gut environment! These bacteria may actually be telling the brain to feed them the sugar they need to continue to survive! Dr. Campbell-McBride has put forth an effective system for healing the gut through diet (the GAPS Diet) in order to treat and sometimes reverse some of these disorders. Yes, food can heal your brain! Of course, there is also quite a bit of research showing that obesity, IBS, acid-reflux, and other common health issues all stem from gut disorders that can be corrected with diet as well.
The environment in your gut is an amazing and wild fortress, capable of providing a long life and vital brain function. Take good care of it and you can always trust your gut!
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