Is Your Gut Making You Moody, Sick & Tired?
Our digestive health is directly connected to our mood and sleep health. This was already established over a hundred years ago by Nobel-recipient Dr. Elie Metchnikoff, a pioneer in the field of intestinal microbes, probiotics in yogurt, and the relationship of toxins, including ammonia, phenols, and indols, in relationship to aging and mental health.
Stress, lack of rest, and infections suppress the parasympathetic nervous system that governs our digestion. If we live mainly in Fight-or Flight mode without appropriate relaxation and mental rest, this is when problems start to arise in our body and the resilience to fight infections goes down. And our digestion goes south, too, as the body is not concerned with digestion when it is busy fighting battles for us in our daily life. No wonder acid blocking meds are top – selling prescription drugs.
Food sensitivities, gluten sensitivity and autoimmune diseases involving IBS, ulcerative colitis and crohn’s are on the increase. There is great awareness in Functional Medicine and Holistic practice that any trouble in our gut has great potential for systemic implications, and mental unwellness. Immuno-suppressing drugs are among top-five sellers today, as are oncology drugs. Yes, immuno-suppressing can be lifesaving, however, what are implications in the long-term? If the immune system is suppressed, it increases the risk for cancer….viral infections and chronic respiratory infections too.
Autoimmune disease: The big “WHY”
When living with an autoimmune disease, it is important to leave no stone unturned while finding out WHY this is occurring. You might need to change doctors if your doctor is not being supportive…There are many factors that come into play and it can take quite some time to discern each potential layer or trigger that result in an overreaction from the immune system. Pharmaceutical can be a helpful bridge during this time to keep a stable terrain, however, it is always worthwhile to consider herbal and nutrient supplementation that help
- Build up vitality
- Offset collateral nutrient depletion from meds that causes other health and mood problems
- Support the body’s ability to get rid of toxins and
- Immune modulation
- Improved digestive, liver, kidney and gallbladder function
- Support hormonal and adrenal function
- Assist in controlling excessive inflammation
- Favorably impact the gut flora (microbiata) and stomach lining
With autoimmune conditions, the medical history, internal and external infections, surgical and dental interventions, trigger foods, heavy metal toxicity, emotional stress, PTSD, genetic predisposition, mold exposure in water damaged buildings, pesticides, aluminum toxicity in the air, and antibiotics in foods, all must be considered. What riles up the immune system in a process that is accompanied by chronic inflammation?
The Leaky Gut Connection
In most cases, a leaky gut is involved and this internal breach is a major inflammatory factor in many diseases. Large molecules, harmful parasites and bacteria in foods, and toxins, which are not supposed to penetrate through the gut wall, now have the ability to enter the bloodstream. This activates an immune response and an inflammatory response. If this goes unchecked and untreated over months and years, it allows for autoimmune diseases to take hold in the body, wherever the an individual is most vulnerable. And that includes our brain. (Note the increase of migraines, seizures, MS, ALS, Autism spectrum, psychiatric and mental unwellness, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.)
Should infections such as Lyme disease or a spider bite be followed up with antibiotic treatment, that can set the scene for a compromised gut lining and gut flora. An infection and /or medical intervention can create a cascade of events that if not managed appropriately, and timely, can have severe and lifelong consequences. An infections, e.g. Lyme, if not diagnosed and treated early, can travel to the brain resulting in symptoms that can be mistaken for schizophrenia, MS or Autism, or it can affect vagus nerve in the gut resulting in ongoing digestive troubles and secondary gut infections such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Lyme and other infections can also set up sanctuaries in the joints, or in the lymph glands in the breast where this can later contribute to breast cancer. It can become a cascade of events.
Another process, where foreign molecules mimic our own tissues in a process called molecular mimicry, also invokes an excessive immune response as the immune system attacks our own tissue. This can also occur in the thyroid (Hashimoto’s is prevalent), the pancreas (diabetes Type 1), the brain, and joints too.
Acute inflammation is part of the protective innate immune response. However, it takes on a life of its own once it becomes sustained. Think of it as a 5-alarm fire. It drains the resources in our body, siphoning the B vitamins, minerals and hormones. Blood sugar dysregulation is not uncommon, sleep troubles, unwanted weight gain (or loss), low sex hormones and adrenal / thyroid hypofunction all come into play. It is chronic inflammation that insidiously drains our physical and mental battery. Blood tests can check for inflammatory markers called cytokines (and not just CRP-S that can be in optimal ranges despite ongoing inflammation being present.)
Symptom Suppression versus Root Causes?
Traditional gastro-enterology does not embrace the philosophy of root cause (s) investigation; the focus is on determining pathology, giving it a label, and then symptom –suppression with pharmaceuticals. This can be absolutely life-saving when in crisis, no doubt about that as it is necessary” to throw the whole kitchen sink” at a situation when it is out of control and life is threatened. However, when a situation is stabilized with meds, then it would be prudent to start to investigate why the body’s systems have gone errant.
Our body is smart. It is also trying to ensure survival and it adapts and compensates when it is threatened, poisoned or compromised by infection (either external including Lyme disease) or internal latent infections, e.g. EBV, strep, Clostridia or C-diff.
Thank you for reading the above. Gut health (and Lyme disease) is a big part of my work as a holistic health practitioner. A good starting point is to consider your nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration and time away from technological devices – these foundational principles matter greatly for all of us. Take care of your gut by eating healthy fats, naturally raised foods and organic produce that contain fewer pesticides, antibiotics and refined sugars. Check your vitamin D levels, get into Nature and find ways to lower your stress. Go out and have fun, share laughter with friends and participate in activities that bring joy into your life.
Rika Keck, FDN-P
NY Integrated Health