Have you noticed how delicate your cell phone is, and how carefully it must be protected? It can’t stand water, doesn’t handle impact very well, must not get too hot, and is easily scratched. You surround it with a screen protector and case so the environment, hopefully, stays out of it. You act as though it is fragile, because it truly is.
Your brain is protected in very intricate ways. Not only does it have a hard shell around it, the brain is carefully shielded from the environment around it. It has very special requirements. Some molecules that are harmless to other organs are toxic to brain neurons. Yet the brain requires oxygen and nourishment constantly, so the shield must be smart enough to let oxygen and nutrients reach the brain.
This may surprise you: there is a connection between this brain “shield” and your gut!
The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)
To limit what molecules reach the brain, the body has the BBB filtering what can pass through it. It only allows tiny molecules that are fat soluble, and anything else that is needed by the brain is escorted across the BBB by special carriers that grabs it and takes it across. Bacteria and most molecules are prevented from reaching the delicate neurons of the brain — unless there is a problem with the Blood-brain barrier. When that happens, your brain is in trouble.
The Blood-brain Barrier isn’t a simple filter — it is a living network of blood vessels lined with specialized endothelial (blood vessel lining) cells that do not have pores that would allow rapid and easy exchange of molecules. When healthy, this network effectively screens out larger molecules. The blood vessels of your brain have these specialized lining cells that form a network to smartly control what passes from the bloodstream to the brain, because brain neurons need special protection not required by other types of cells.
The BBB doesn’t have to break down completely to cause problems. It can become “leaky”, meaning it filters poorly and lets larger molecules through. Toxins circulating through the blood can damage the BBB across the whole brain, as can certain bacteria. Chronic stress can cause the BBB to open. Inflammation disrupts the BBB, and this is the key link between the “leaky BBB” and “leaky gut”.
The intestinal barrier
Covering over 4,000 square feet of surface, the intestinal lining also has an intentionally tight barrier: it is supposed to limit the size of molecules passing through it to the bloodstream. Like the BBB, the intestinal lining can be compromised because of stress, bacteria, and inflammation.
Unlike the BBB, the intestinal lining has to protect the body from what is essentially the outside environment. You consume food which, shortly before it was consumed, was outside of the body. When you eat, you are bringing in microbes of all sorts, as well as nutrients which must be broken down and processed before they enter the bloodstream. If some incompletely processed substances reach the bloodstream, they are considered as invaders by the immune system, which releases its “warriors” to catch the offending molecules — they do collateral damage in the process, resulting in inflammation. As these substances are circulating in the blood, the inflammation will also occur throughout the body, including the Blood-brain Barrier.
This means that the health and effectiveness of the intestinal barrier drives the health of the BBB. The source of much of the inflammation that damages the BBB originates in the gut!
The microbiota connection
Much of the food processing that happens in the gut is not done by the body. The whole digestive tract contains about 100 trillion bacteria — these comprise the “gut microbiota”. When we ingest food, the microbiota start to work on it. Beneficial gut bacteria “eat” the food, but in the process leave simpler molecules behind, making the body’s digestive process easier. “Bad” gut bacteria also eat the food and leave behind toxins. We need the gut bacteria to do this digestive work for us, but we certainly don’t need the toxins. These toxins damage the gut lining, starting the leaky gut syndrome.
Published in Nature Communications, research conducted by the Institut Pasteur did a very basic test: they transferred microbiota from animals with mood disorders to ones in good health, and those animals developed the mood disorders. Other, human studies have catalogued microbiota of people with mood disorders and compared with that of healthy people, noting significant differences in the microbiota content. Healthy people inevitably had different microbiota make up.
Microbiota are constantly being affected by their environment. Certain foods feed the good bacteria well and favor them over the harmful bacteria. Processed foods, “dead” foods, and animal products are particularly good at feeding the bad bacteria. Published by the National Library of Medicine, a study at The Ohio State University determined that stressor exposure “significantly changed the community structure of the microbiota”. This effect was measurable immediately after stress events. In follow-up experiments where antibiotics were used to reduce the microbiota population, the rise in circulating cytokines (which cause inflammation) was lessened after the stress event, compared with those having a full load of microbiota. This shows that the stressors “talked” directly to the gut microbiota to increase inflammation. Reducing the gut microbiota was not the answer to reducing stress effects however, because digestion was also damaged. Stressors shift the balance of microbiota negatively, and we need instead to shift it in our favor with lowered stress and good diet. Microbiota are, in a sense, a part of the body, and an essential part at that.
If you are suffering poor mood, you may want to look to your diet and digestion. Poor diet feeds inflammatory microbes in your gut rather than helpful ones, and stress and worry promote the bad microbes. This in turn leads to the gut lining becoming more permeable as the toxins from the bad microbiota cause it to let incompletely digested food particles and bacteria into the bloodstream. Once that happens, the Blood-brain Barrier is assaulted by toxins and bacteria and is unable to do its job fully. This leads to the neurons of the brain now being exposed to damaging materials, inflammation, and toxins, leading in mild cases to mood problems, and in greater cases to mental disease. Finally, the neurons may die, leading to actual loss of your IQ. Neurons die easily and regenerate slowly, especially as we age.
Preserve this delicate, wonderful mechanism that is called your brain. It is powerful, but easily damaged! Caution — delicate material inside — handle with care!
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
What you do to your gut you do to your brain and mind, and vice versa. If you eat dead, devitalized food that causes immune reactions which inflame tissues, organs, glands, your brain and nervous system, how can you thrive? If you are worrying about the future or the past how can you live fully in the moment and remain anti-inflammatory? It’s not about health, it’s about life: living life to the full each moment — and when you do AND take care of the body that brings you from here to there, then you will not have a problem with your gut, nor brain, nor mind, nor emotions. This is what total health of body mind and emotions is about.
If you need help on your journey here are the ways:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.