When it comes to dealing with the complex signaling mechanisms of the body, particularly those involved with Inflammation, modern medicine tends to over-simplify: it’s response is similar to killing a fly with a sledge hammer, while the fly is sitting on a window — and our bodies are like the window. The body’s regulation mechanisms are so complex that interfering with any one piece of them generates countless ripple effects, many of which have yet to be discovered.
Compartmentalizing the body is common in medicine, but fails to consider these complex mechanisms. If you have stomach issues, the first approach is usually to prescribe something that acts on the stomach. Yet your brain could be the source of the trouble. Likewise, if you are experiencing brain/mental issues, doctors may not consider what is happening with your digestive tract. In contrast, “holistic” medicine considers the whole person, which attempts to consider the effects of treatment on the whole body and overall health.
Inflammation signals trouble. If it is local and temporary, a helpful healing response is probably occurring, but chronic, widespread inflammation means a condition exists that the body can’t fix readily, and the inflammation is likely causing damage each day it remains. To be healthy, you need very low inflammation, not because you are using some medical sledgehammer on it, but because your body doesn’t need that inflammation.
One of the keys to lower inflammation is to look to the intestinal tract. Your gut is central to much of your health, and we are learning just how important it is to lowering inflammation in the brain.
The Key Role of the Gut
There are ways that the gut health influences the whole body. We consider that much of the gut is actually a huge colony of bacteria called microbiota which have a mutually beneficial relationship with the intestinal environment. We note that bad bacteria in the gut produce toxins which get through the thin intestinal walls into the bloodstream and cause the immune system to respond, and when the immune system acts, inflammation often results. So we know that gut health has a major impact on overall health and bodily inflammation.
New research has found a direct link between the brain and microbiota, and it highlights why interfering with any part of the body’s complex signaling functions can cause unexpected problems. Published in Nature, researchers at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found a chain reaction where gut microbiota causes the expression of interferon gamma, or IFNy, which regulates the production of a protein called “TRAIL” (TNF-Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand), which, along with another protein called “LAMP1” (Lysosome Associated Membrane Protein), are expressed by astrocytes (star-shaped glial cells that work with neuronal synapses to regulate the transmission of electrical impulses) in the brain to cause T-cell inhibition to reduce local inflammation. If you followed that complex chain, you realize that this is a highly complex function that starts in the intestinal tract and ends in controlling inflammation in the brain.
Brain inflammation leads to a host of mental issues, from milder symptoms such as poor mental focus to serious brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s — brain inflammation can rapidly degenerate the brain. The brain has its own local immune system, tuned to handle its special needs, but it is signaled by the rest of the body. Controlling brain inflammation by shutting off T-cells in the entire body would have disastrous results to the whole immune system, but for the local brain immune system this protects the delicate brain from the ravages of excess immune system cytokines. Brain inflammation compromises the blood-brain barrier (BBB), making it “leaky” by allowing foreign invaders to get through, forcing the local immune system to deal with them and causing collateral damage.
Both the intestinal tract barrier and the blood-brain barrier have remarkable similarities: both are extremely thin, are working at the microscopic level to prevent large molecules from passing through, both are easily damaged, and are highly regenerative. And both are affected by gut bacteria. The Brigham research found yet another way that gut microbes affect the BBB — signaling through interferon-gamma. Simply put, what is good for your gut is good for your brain, and what harms your gut harms your whole body, including your brain.
Science is Catching Up
Holistic medicine, or medicine for the whole person, has been telling us for a long time that what is good for one part of the body is good for the rest, and that the key to good health is care of the whole body. Science is not supposed to start with presuppositions: it is supposed to start with a blank slate and build upon experimental results to form conclusions. The problem with that approach is that science is forced to over-simplify, because it cannot effectively run experiments with thousands of variables. As it attempts to look at the details of one metabolic pathway or of a certain cellular signaling, it has to ignore much of the rest of what is happening in the body simultaneously. As it catalogs the results of many experiments and cross-references the results, the complexity of the interactions of the body become more obvious. Interferon-gamma induced by gut bacteria signal astrocytes in the brain to cause a reduction in inflammation; yet we saw in another teaching how INF-y can promote inflammation and when IL-6 is produced in intense exercise it reduces the INF-y effects. The body is designed with high complexity to support many different functions in different ways. Astrocytes have long been seen by researchers as promoting inflammation, according to the Brigham authors. The reason they cited that researchers missed the anti-inflammatory action of some astrocytes is that they were considering all astrocytes to be alike, and now we’ve learned that there are different types of these cells. While it took a long time and a lot of experiments to determine this, holistic medicine has recognized for a long time the gut-brain connection.
Science is proving the remarkable complexity of the design built into us. Computers weren’t built by random chance, and we are much more complex than computers. Medicine that works with the body’s design is the most likely to succeed. Where science can get us into trouble is when it generalizes the result of focused experiments into whole body treatments. Where science shines is by helping us understand the complexity of the body and how its intricate mechanisms work together to build health.
Whether you are getting standard medical treatment or not, the basics of natural health remain true for you. Your health is designed to respond to a good internal and external environment, and that means reducing or eliminating toxicity caused by drugs where you can safely do so. Exercise, rest, food, water, air, and your thoughts all influence your body’s environment. Promoting good gut microbiota to reduce brain inflammation is impacted by all these factors, including thoughts. Science is meant to uncover why things happen the way that they do, and to give us a way to view our world. As science continues to delve into the bottomless complexity of our body’s function, it confirms the basics of natural health. To treat the condition you must treat the whole person.
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
The complexity of the human body is indescribable. Let us just look at this equation: Gut bacteria>IFNy>TRAIL>LAMP1>T cell inhibition= Decreased inflammation. In actually there are over a thousand steps in most reactions going on in the body. What does that mean to you?
Your body is a self-regulating, self-healing community. It does this all without you thinking or worrying about it. Sometimes in life the more you know the more it harms you — ignorance is at times bliss. So if nobody ever discovered these pathways your body would still do what it was designed to do, which is self-regulate and self-heal. What is the source of brain inflammation causing emotional ups and downs, brain fog and memory loss? First and foremost: subconscious and conscious stress programs. Second is intestinal imbalance. If you heal the leaky gut then you heal the leaky brain and if you heal the leaky brain you heal the leaky gut. So if you have memory loss or brain fog, first consider stored conscious/subconscious programs, and second, think intestinal tract. How do I fix these things, you ask? Just get back to basics: 7 Basic Steps to Total Health, which include breathing, oxygenation, water consumption, hydration, diet that accounts for immune reactions and sensitivities, exercise, sleep, fasting/detoxification and prayer, meditation and stillness. Remember when the body exercise is intense, it produces the cytokine IL6 which reduces INFy effects. So in one situation INFy turning on is anti-inflammatory, and in another situation INFy turning off is anti-inflammatory. Now you can see where some of the side effects from medication can arise. If you made a drug that boosted INFy you would think that would help with brain inflammation and brain disorders, but that same medication will cause inflammation in other pathways depending on how the body is trying to self-regulate and self-heal. Can you see how it is very difficult to intervene in the body with causing imbalances in other systems? Keep it simple with 7 Basic Steps.
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