In the last article we learned about leaky gut and its health consequences.
But wait, there’s more…
Last week I mentioned how one potential source of gut damage is brain trauma. You may also recall that leaky gut plays a role in brain issues, including depression and brain fog.
So how does this work?
Even though we think of our intestines as our “insides,” really the entire alimentary canal, starting with the lips and ending at the anus, is “outside.” The human body is much like a donut, with the skin facing the external world, and the inner lining of the intestinal tract also open to the external world of the things we swallow, such as water, air, food, and bacteria. Just as our five senses allow us to sense the outer world on the “outside,” the enteric nervous system senses and responds to what is happening in the “inner outer world” of your gut.
Your Second Brain
The enteric nervous system (ENS) has been called “the second brain.” The ENS contains about 100 million neurons, which is more than in the spinal cord.
The ENS controls peristalsis, the movement of food through the intestines, and controls absorption of nutrients from our food. The ENS also sends signals up the vagus nerve to the brain, directly affecting emotions, thinking, and learning. The vagus nerve is the primary visceral nerve that connects the brain to the gut.
Surprisingly, 90% of the fibers in the vagus nerve send impulses from the gut to the brain and back; most of those impulses go up to the brain from the gut. All the same neurotransmitters produced in the brain are also produced and used by the ENS. In fact 95% of your body’s serotonin is found in your gut!
Knowing that, it’s no wonder that gastrointestinal problems can present as brain symptoms, and vice versa.
Living on this polluted planet, we all have toxins in our bodies. Though most of us have similar levels of toxins, some people are much more chemically sensitive than others. One person has no problem working in a freshly painted office all day, while her co-worker runs out immediately because he gets a headache and just can’t stand to smell the fumes. Why so they react so differently?
Much like the mucosal barrier in our intestines protects our bodies from toxins from the outside world, barriers in our lungs and brain do the same job for those organs. When a person has leaky gut, often one or more of their other mucosal barriers are compromised.
A normal blood-brain barrier will let nutrients into the brain while keeping most toxins out. If you have leaky gut, your chances are much higher that you could have a leaky blood-brain barrier as well. As toxins are allowed to pass into your brain, you can experience symptoms such as “brain fog” and depression as well as chemical intolerance.
So, what can you do to heal a leaky blood-brain barrier?
- Take care of that leaky gut first! You’ll have to eliminate all potentially allergenic foods from your diet for at least a few weeks. If you have symptoms of leaky gut or leaky brain, see a qualified alternative health practitioner.
- Eat naturally fermented food like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, or supplement with a good quality probiotic.
- Reduce stress.
If you have symptoms of leaky gut or leaky brain and would like help to get your body back to healthy balance, sign up for a free 20-minute Health Strategy Session.