Your stomach and intestines are the key not only to getting better nutrition but holds the key to overall health and longevity. Whether it’s the foods we eat which may grow certain microbes in our gut, to the antibiotics we’ve taken which may decrease them, this balance is fundamental to our health. From aiding digestion to protection of our gut microbes have been linked to numerous health benefits where it’s imbalance to an increasing list of disorders as we are now finding out. Recent studies have strongly linked the gut microbiome to conditions like including IBS, Crohn’s, and Ulcerative Colitis but more surprisingly even to conditions outside of the gut as well.
Within the gut very important chemicals are found which regulate numerous functions around the body. Inflammation and destruction of our gut lining and microbial balance can allow certain bad organisms and toxic substances from our foods and outside environment to permeate through and enter our circulation wreaking havoc on our bodies and burdening our immune system. This is known as Intestinal permeability or in layman terms ‘Leaky gut’. This thereby can lead to conditions relating to numerous organ systems throughout the body including the brain. This can occur due to certain over the counter and prescription pain medications, numerous pharmaceuticals, foods high in saturated fats/meats, highly processed foods, high sugar containing substances, and even dairy and gluten in susceptible people. One very important thing to note is stress too is a major contributor to Intestinal permeability and a culprit in causing your gut microbes to become imbalanced.
There are 4 types of cells in small intestine. Each have crucial roles in protecting our bodies and this organ. Enterocytes are responsible for absorbing our nutrients from food and they have digestive enzymes on their surface. The Goblet cells secrete mucus as a protective barrier. Then there’s Paneth cells which help kill off bad microbes that we face every day and whatever may come from the food we eat. Lastly, there are the Enteroendocrine cells. This last category of cells are responsible for making certain neurotransmitters and signaling proteins that affect our endocrine system. One such peptide in fact is very important for not just digestive functions but mood, sleep, social behavior, sleep and even sex. This substance is known as Serotonin. Harm to any of these cells may impair your guts barrier function but this may in turn lead to chronic health issues that expand much deeper like mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. In fact, the direct link between the gut and the brain is the vagus nerve which helps regulate heart rate and rhythm and sends signals between the gut and brain. In particular, when it comes to mood, most conventional physicians don’t realize yet the importance the role of the gut plays in overall health and psychology.
If you’ve ever heard of SSRI medications like Celexa, Lexapro, or Zoloft these medications actually help depression and anxiety by increasing Serotonin! Growing evidence is showing evidence that there are changes in the gut microbiota (gut bacteria) in patients with mood disorders vs those without. This is likely due to the fact certain bacteria and microorganisms may be inflammatory. For those struggling with depression or anxiety and would like to find the root cause, the gut is often one of the first places to start looking. Functional Medicine doctors help patients uncover this, wean off such medications after repairing it, and getting people’s lives back. The approach is non toxic, often using supplements and different nutritional approaches that have been shown to work well. If you or someone you know have been diagnosed with ‘IBS’ or frequent gastrointestinal infections like ‘SIBO’ (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) looking for certain infections may help them on their path to recovery.
The first thing that would be advisable to start right away would be a 6 week trial of removing gluten and dairy from the diet. Both have been shown to induce inflammation, are allergenic in certain people, and are known to cause these bad microbes to grow which cause inflammation to gas production. You may start to see improvement with symptoms in as little as 2 weeks. Rather than relying on chronic medication to simply control symptoms, this approach actually helps target the source so you may improve indefinitely and free of dependence on medications. We constantly see our patients report that this not only helps their symptoms but improves mental clarity, relieves joint pains, and even weight loss. Root cause approach is the Functional Medicine way. Feel free to reach out to our office to find out more about what we are doing, our gut repair program, and how we may be able to help restore health balance. After all, it’s your health and there is no one thing more important.