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Brain Health and the Unexpected Gut Connection

I am so excited for this three part guest post series from my wonderful friend, Kacie. Just about a year ago (oh my…a whole year), when I experienced a terrifying health crisis, Kacie was one of the first people to reach out to me with open arms, and unwavering support. She has been through much of what I have, and then some, and she is one of the strongest, most determined, and powerful people I have had the privilege to get to know. If we aren’t texting about detox, nutrition, or offering one another some sort of support on our own journeys, then we are sending photos of our cats to each other. Kacie has some really big things coming in the near future, so keep your eyes open. You wont want to miss it!

Huge thank you to Kacie for all of the work she put into these posts for our blog. I hope you all love it!

xo,

Hayley


 

HEADSHOT

Kacie is a health and functional nutrition enthusiast and founder of Human Resources Wellness. After a series of health challenges in her twenties which left her fed up with the Western medical system, she turned to food as medicine and was astounded at the shifts and healing that she discovered. It was through this experience that she found her true calling: to help others through nutrition, natural medicine and holistic healing.

The Human Resources philosophy is firmly grounded in the importance of a healthy digestive system as the key to reaching overall immune, cognitive, psychological and physical health. Rather than subscribing to food dogma, Kacie is guided by science, bioavailability of nutrients, bodily intuition and therapeutic applications of healing modalities- all within the framework of eating real food with a heavy dose of vegetables. Kacie will graduate as a certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner from Bauman College in February with a Human Resources retail snack bar in Los Angeles on the way in the Spring of 2016.

Website:  www.humanresourceswellness.com

Instagram:  @human.resources

 


Gut Brain Connection Health

Anxiety, depression. Moodiness, reactivity and anger. Brain fog, forgetfulness, a sense of being overwhelmed. Increasingly these mental issues are becoming normal parts of life as a human being living in our modern society. Sadly, they still carry an enormous stigma, even though a staggering 6.7 percent of Americans are reporting suffering from a mood disorder of some kind. Hayley has been very brave and open in talking about her anxiety struggles; and I myself have dealt with some pretty serious anxiety during my twenties that only resolved when I started addressing the root cause.

When these issues come up, we usually believe there is something wrong with the brain itself- something that a pill or a substance can fix. Think about it- when we are fatigued and need energy, we reach for coffee, sugar or caffeine. When we are anxious or depressed, doctors prescribe powerful medications like Xanax or antidepressants like they are candy. We are desperate for an answer and a solution, so we take them. But pills only deal (usually very inefficiently) with the symptoms of depression, and not the root cause. Research is revealing that what holds a vital and irreplaceable key to optimal brain health is not some special kind of neurotransmitter, expensive supplement or pill, but rather: a healthy digestive system.

We don’t usually think of the brain and gut being related. In the West, we have a tendency to view things as specialized organs. More and more research is coming out about the GUT / BRAIN axis, and how what we eat and the state of our digestive systems actually determines not just our cognitive function, but our risk for disease and our overall health. In this special three part article, we are going to be discussing some of these root factors and how to go about correcting them without extreme measures or dangerous medications.

Only very recently have we started learning about the microbiome, which is the diverse colony of bacteria that live in our bodies and digestive system. I’m sure you’ve heard of them- “Probiotics”. These microbes outnumber our human cells by TEN to ONE! 100 TRILLION invisible creatures who do everything from digest our food, regulate our immune system, detoxification, controlling inflammation, nutrient absorption, weight management, the list goes on. All of these factor into whether we experience not just emotional mood disorders- but also allergies, asthma, autism and ADHD, autoimmune disease, diabetes, and even cancer and dementia.

Enormous advances in recent research are showing that beneficial gut bacteria support not only a healthy immune system (as 80% of our immune system resides in our gut), but positive mood and emotional well-being. 90% of the “happy hormone” serotonin is produced in the digestive system! The gut is truly our second brain. Collected together, the bacteria in your gut would weight about three to four pounds- the same weight as your brain! Our digestive system affects the way we feel; it dictates our mood, our sleep, our reaction to stress. It literally communicates with the brain via an advanced neurofeedback loop called the “GUT BRAIN AXIS”.

And we have a huge problem. The modern world and the Standard American Diet (SAD) are not conducive to gut health.

Antibiotics, NSAIDs like tylenol, prescription medications, birth control pills, pesticides and herbicides, environmental toxins, heavy metals, parasite infections, and especially a diet full of refined foods, grains and gluten with high sugar and low fiber diets all starve and severely damage the our good bugs. Without a healthy microbiome, we are exponentially more susceptible to inflammation, disease, depression, and dementia.

These factors all contribute immensely to the development of “leaky gut”, which is a major gastrointestinal disorder that occurs when openings develop in the intestinal (gut) wall. As a result, unwanted particles and harmful organisms are able to pass through the digestive lining and enter the bloodstream. These foreign invaders create major problems in the body and lead to many systemic inflammatory and immune- related symptoms such as food allergies and food sensitivities, eczema, hives, asthma, fibromyalgia, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even autoimmune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (and many others!) Some researchers even believe that leaky gut is an absolute essential predisposing factor to the development of any disease, including cancer. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19538307).

The takeaway: You must have a healthy gut to have a healthy brain. And the most exciting part is: you can positively change your microbiome and in doing so, boost your cognitive function, your ability to manage stress, and overall happiness. Restoring a healthy gut will ultimately improve your mental wellbeing, and can even reverse anxiety and mood disorders. The good news is, we have all the tools in front of us: and it starts with food. Stay tuned for the next article, where we will cover how to go about healing and nourishing your brain by nourishing your digestion, along with a recipe designed specially for these purposes.

(Come back tomorrow for Part 2: “Eating for a Healthy Brain”)


 

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    COMMENTS

    1. hsajdak
      February 4, 2016

      Great info! Looking forward to reading tomorrow’s post. I feel like anxiety has changed me in ways I really don’t like – including my personality. Do you think they can be reversed? Also, how do you know if your gut is healthy? I guess my brain would tell me no. Positive affirmations stick with me for about 2 seconds…

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