ut health is a topic that has been garnishing a surge of attention lately. Particularly, issues pertaining to the correct balance of microflora, leaky-gut syndrome, and connections to mental health have seen a renaissance of sort. Everyone has heard the old saying that “you are what you eat,” but with recent research, much clarity has been added to the specifics of this adage.
The connection between mental and gut health has been investigated by many, demonstrating an ability to alter perceptions through gut micro-organisms such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium types. These types of bacteria are present in the gastrointestinal tract of most healthy people, aiding in the digestion of food as well as extermination of disease and protection of the intestinal lining. When bacteria such as these aren’t present in healthy amounts, other harmful bacteria may be given a chance to grow and flourish. Many of these harmful bacteria are capable of causing direct harm, as well as indirect harm through their metabolic by-products which leech into the bloodstream (3).
Gut Dysbiosis & Systemic Health
Modern research is showing that the balance of the micro-organisms in our gut play a pivotal role in determining our overall health. The impact of these colonizing organisms reaches much further than simple digestive issues, and is thought to affect systemic functions within our body as well. A good idea of this research can be understood by the following excerpt from Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease: (1)
In many of these conditions, the mechanisms leading to disease development involves the pivotal mutualistic relationship between the colonic microbiota, their metabolic products, and the host immune system. The establishment of a ‘healthy’ relationship early in life appears to be critical to maintaining intestinal homeostasis. Whilst we do not yet have a clear understanding of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ colonic microbiota, a picture is emerging from many recent studies identifying particular bacterial species associated with a healthy microbiota. In particular, the bacterial species residing within the mucus layer of the colon, either through direct contact with host cells, or through indirect communication via bacterial metabolites, may influence whether host cellular homeostasis is maintained or whether inflammatory mechanisms are triggered.
Helping elucidate a growing awareness, this article investigates modern research which demonstrates the effects of an imbalance of gut microbiota on overall health. Many probiotics are advertised to help with bloating or digestion, but few largely-marketing ones discuss the relationship between the gut and overall health. The FDA’s stance on manufacturer’s ability to make health claims regarding their supplements is more than likely to blame for that. Without patentable technology, few corporate interests desire to develop and test these products to align with FDA requirements for making health claims. If you know what to shop look for, you’ve nothing to worry about and will probably see some benefit in lower pricing!
Gut Health & Mental Disease
In addition to the impacts on immune function, obesity, and issues most closely-associated with inflammatory conditions such as IBS, gut dysbiosis has been shown to impact mental health as well. Patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and even hallucinatory illnesses such as schizophrenia have been recorded as showing drastic improvements with issues with their intestinal tracts were addressed. For instance, one study found that in a patient suffering from auditory and visual hallucinations that the elimination of Gluten from her diet also eliminating her symptoms. (2) While this type of sensitivity to gluten isn’t associated with Celiac’s disease, the impact on the patient was still tremendous. As with many patients suffering with these types of symptoms, this patient (a young girl) was referred to a neuro-specialist which resulted in her being prescribed a benzodiazepine and sent on her way. Two months later, this young girl’s symptoms worsened and she began to experience vivid hallucinations that were “indistinguishable from reality.” She then spiraled downward over the course of that year until that fall, when suffering from extreme digestive pains and constipation, was referred to a nutritionist. The following demonstrates the power of the gut-brain connection:
“…due to gastro-intestinal symptoms and further weight loss (about 15% of her weight in the last year), a nutritionist was consulted, and a gluten-free diet (GFD) was recommended for symptomatic treatment of the intestinal complaints; unexpectedly, within a week of gluten-free diet, the symptoms (both gastro-intestinal and psychiatric) dramatically improved, and the GFD was continued”
Also worth mention is that prior to the Gluten-free diet, this poor girl had undergone countless tests, which all came back within normal ranges, and had undergone several courses of steroid treatments.
The misunderstood nature of diseases which manifest into our mental spaces has lead many patients down paths of prescription medications which can last a lifetime—all the while worsening their symptoms. For instance, a patient with a disorder rooted in his or her gut may be treated with an anti-biotic to address another condition. This dosage of anti-biotics will most-likely have a tremendous impact on the balance of gut microflora, and can catalyze a very vicious cycle.
Paleo Diet & Gut Health
The Paleo Diet can help address many of the underlying issues which give rise to these horrible conditions. By eliminating harmful and inflammatory foods such as grains and disease-feeding ones such as sugars, the Paleo Diet can help rebuild your health from a foundational level. While some of the root triggers for these horrendous symptoms may be largely grain-related, the same pathways are exploitable by synthetic chemicals in foods as well.
A well-disciplined diet, such as the Paleo diet, in conjugation with maintaining a healthy level of bacteria in the gut, can not only help prevent further disease, but also work to heal already present symptoms. A great probiotic to help address conditions associated with leaky gut or auto immune symptoms is Saccharomyces boulardii from Pure Encapsalations. This particular probiotic is very useful in addressing issues of food sensitivity as well, being as it is a non-dairy derived organism. Choosing an effective probiotic can be a mighty blow in the fight to take back your health, so do so carefully and under the recommendation of your doctor.