What is the gut-brain access/connection, and how is it related to inflammation?
Hello, my name is Alana Kessler, and I am a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition from NYU, and an expert guide in yoga, meditation, and alternative nutrition methods based in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.
When we talk about inflammation, the first question we must ask is: How does our diet affect our nervous system? Inflammation is a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.
Inflammation is a pervasive and self-perpetuating condition affecting the optimal functioning of the body’s natural processes. Unfortunately, only when significant symptoms arise, such as IBS, joint pain and neuromuscular issues, headaches, hormone issues, weight fluctuations, do we begin to address the underlying issues.
When we talk about the mind-gut connection, we can look to the vagus nerve, one of two extremely long cranial nerves that extend from the brain to the abdomen, to assess our mental and emotional states. This connection explains why the quality of food we choose has a direct impact on our state of mind and sense of well being.
Inflammation stems from many sources, and will most likely be experienced as the derailment of the hormones that act as messengers between the belly and the brain. These sources include—but are not limited to—sugars, chemicals, pathogens, and stress, which trigger the central nervous system to release insulin and cortisol as a means for survival. Problems arise because continuous low-grade stimulation of these hormones, especially cortisol, act as a systemic immune suppressant, lowering levels of secretory IgA, an important body guard of the gut microbiome and triggering hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue.
When cortisol is high, high levels of insulin and sugar remain in the blood while the cells become deprived. Too much insulin inhibits the fat cells from being broken down as energy, and begin to secrete their own SOS signals, leading to hormone shifts resulting in estrogen dominance, increased DHEA and androgens to fuel the aromatization of testosterone to estradiol. Symptoms present as acne, hair growth and irritation.
Once triggered, inflammation causes a cascade response in the tissues, and especially the mitochondria, whose main role in the cell is management of energy or food intake. “Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles that fuse and divide in response to environmental stimuli, developmental status, and energy requirements. These organelles act to supply the cell with ATP and to synthesise key molecules in the processes of inflammation, oxidation, and metabolism. Therefore, energy sensors and management effectors are determinants in the course and development of diseases.” (Reference https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/135698/).
A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that carries, boosts, and balances signals between neurons, or nerve cells, and other cells in the body. Billions of neurotransmitters work constantly to keep our brains functioning, managing everything from our breathing to our heartbeat to our learning and concentration levels. They fail to convert if the cells are not functioning properly.
The result is an unhappy brain expressing a collection of symptoms, including lethargy, sleep disturbance, decreased social activity, mobility, libido, learning, and, on occasion, anorexia. An unhappy gut perpetuating the inflammatory response causes more and more mutations in the tissues, leading to many chronic and acute conditions.
In my work, I have found that treating inflammation through a careful low refined sugar diet, with a high level of natural fats, meditation, and strategic supplementation can help restore a natural homeostasis. When discussing the possibility of treatment for CMT, it is imperative that we explore nutrition, lifestyle, and stress (internal, inherited and environmental) as major influences in the causation of this condition, and begin to develop protocols to support a more holistic approach in the investigation.
To learn more about Alana Kessler and her practice, please visit: www.bewellbyak.com
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
Inflammation – a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.
Pathogens – a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
Cortisol – a glucocorticoid C21H30O5 produced by the adrenal cortex upon stimulation by ACTH that mediates various metabolic processes (such as gluconeogenesis), has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and whose levels in the blood may become elevated in response to physical or psychological stress.
Microbiome – collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body.
Organelles – a specialized cellular part (such as a mitochondrion, chloroplast, or nucleus) that has a specific function and is considered analogous to an organ.
ATP – formed especially aerobically by the reaction of ADP and an orthophosphate during oxidation, or by the interaction of ADP and phosphocreatine or certain other substrates, and serving as a source of energy for physiological reactions, especially muscle contraction.
Hypothyroidism – abnormally low activity of the thyroid gland, resulting in retardation of growth and mentaldevelopment in children and adults.
DHEA – a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands, that acts on the body much like testosterone and is converted into testosterone and estrogen. The blood levels of DHEA decline with age.
Androgens – any steroid hormone that promotes male secondary sex characters. The two main androgens are androsterone and testosterone.
Aromatization – a chemical reaction in which an aromatic system is formed. It can also refer to the production of a new aromatic moiety in a molecule which is already aromatic.
Estradiol – Estradiol is a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries, adrenal gland and also the placenta during pregnancy. Estradiol is the most important hormone during a female’s reproductive years, and is required for reproductive and sexual function as well as having an impact on the health of other organs and tissues.