Originally published in Natural Awakenings Magazine, Boulder CO, October 2016
There has been a lot of information coming out in the last few years about the connection between our gut and our nervous system. The implications and details are compelling and complicated, but addressing the symptoms associated with imbalances doesn’t have to be.
The path to declining mental health can begin with inflammation in the nervous system, which can be caused by a number of factors including microbial imbalances and food intolerances. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to antigens (toxins) from bacteria, viruses – or foods. If a person can’t digest certain proteins such as gluten (in grains) or casein (in dairy products), these toxins will trigger the immune response. Even the tiniest amount of a food antigen can provoke a systemic response – think about the massive way the immune system responds to tiny viruses and bacteria! With foods one eats on a regular basis, this response can run haywire and cause chronic inflammation throughout the body. If the inflammation goes unchecked it can lead to widespread tissue damage, including in the brain.
You may have heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome – where excess permeability in the intestines allows unwanted proteins into the bloodstream and causes chronic inflammation. This also affects the nervous system, leading to neuro-inflammation. “Leaky Brain Syndrome” means the Blood-Brain Barrier (that nice protective covering around the brain) is compromised due to ongoing inflammation.
One result of food intolerances causing “Leaky Brain” is disruption in our neurotransmitters. You know, the motivated happy ones like dopamine and serotonin, and the calming focused ones like GABA and acetylcholine. Continued exposure to food antigens can eventually cause an autoimmune response, where our immune system actually starts attacking our own tissues. This is when the mood disorders and even neurodegenerative diseases take root.
Working with a nutritionist, herbalist or other trained practitioner can help you identify your food intolerances and give you support and guidance to eliminate the food that’s bumming you out, as well as heal your leaky gut and get your brain working on the sunny side again.
Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS, 2013, Elephant Press LC