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Understanding The Gut-Brain Connection and Behaviours.

Each food you eat either fuels your body and benefits your cells healing and reproducing new healthy cells. Or it harms your body causing inflammation and deficiencies and thus behavioral issues like Depression, Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Bi-Polar Disorder, or inflammation illness like; Arthritis, Diabetes, ME, MS, Heart Conditions, Crohn’s, Eczema, psoriasis, Asthma, Epilepsy and Auto-immune diseases. It’s vital to understand eating the right foods and living in the right environment for your body so it can heal itself and do what it is designed to do without medication and intervention.

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The “Mind-Gut Connection”

The trillions of microbes that inhabit the human body, collectively called the microbiome, are estimated to weigh two to six pounds. Up to twice the weight of the average human brain (No wonder we call the Gut the second Brain) Most of them live in the gut and intestines, where they help us to digest food, synthesize vitamins and ward off infection. Studies have linked the gut microbiome to a range of complex behaviours, such as mood and emotion, appetite, and even learning and memory. Not only does the gut microbiome appear to help maintain brain function, but it may also influence the risk of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including anxiety, depression and autism.

  • Gut microbiota help break down certain nutrients.
  • Gut microbiota produce brain chemicals such as,
  • GABA, tryptophan, serotonin, histamine and
  • Dopamine (all needed to function and stay happy and balanced)
  • 70-80% of your brain chemicals are made in the gut!

Disruption of the gut barrier:

  • Dysbiosis “leaky gut” – toxicity
  • Parasites and over-growths of yeast
  • Inflammatory bowel disorders

Microbiota Disturbance

There are many things that can upset this delicate balance, from family genes passed on from blood lines, to environment, toxins and of course most important is the food you nourish your body with.

  • Environment – pesticides, herbicides, synthetic hormones and pollutions.
  • Foods – intolerances, processed foods, white sugar, trans fat, wheat, gluten and food chemicals, preservatives and additives. (Gluten can cause opening of the cell junctions, open it up to toxins and bacteria entering the blood stream causing Leaky Gut)
  • Under-active digestion (low stomach acid)
  • Stress and emotional trauma. (Causing diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, wind, reflux, low stomach acid, ulcers in the digestive tract, disruption in motility, bacterial imbalance, when stressed there are tendencies to eat more sugar and refined carbohydrates when under pressure)
  • Medication -painkillers, sleeping tablets, thrush treatments, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory e.g. Nurofen, Cortisone, Voltaren.

Many factors come in to play to stop our cells from talking to each other and growing healthily or reproducing:

  • Inflammation
  • Food sensitivities – e.g. gluten intolerance
  • Oxidative Stress (toxicity of cells)
  • Hormones – e.g. Cortisol (stress)
  • Leaky gut

What is “Leaky Gut”?

The lining of our digestive tract acts as a barrier with tiny holes that should only allow small, harmless particles to pass through while preventing waste particles and undigested food from escaping. However, if this lining becomes compromised or more porous than normal, undigested food particles and waste products can get through and enter the bloodstream. When undigested food particles and waste seep into the bloodstream, the immune system responds with inflammation throughout the body, leading to leaky gut syndrome (coined my Naturopaths). Inflammation can then lead to symptoms like bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, rashes, achy joints, allergies, and more. These symptoms, in addition to chemicals produced during this immune response, are contributing factors for kids who struggle with behavior, focus, and learning difficulties. Kids with leaky gut syndrome may also experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to poor absorption, which can further exacerbate learning or behavioral struggles. While it is widely accepted that people with Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) often experience leaky gut syndrome, the idea that kids with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Autism and Dyslexia and other neuro-developmental disorders may also be affected is gaining traction thanks to Dr Natasha Mc Bride ‘The GAPS Diet’.

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Hannah’s Gut Healing Protocol.

Hormones

Hormones play such an important role in your body and its healing ability, if one is out or low or too high it can cause many long-term health issues. If your lacking in any of these hormones or your body is imbalanced you can get symptoms of depression, learning difficulties or leaky gut. Here I break down each one and the importance of them:

Neurotransmitters

These act as messengers for the brain and nervous system:

  • They either “excite” or “inhibit”
  • Keep you in a “fight or flight response”

Noradrenaline

Helps with:

  • Alertness, concentration, memory and mood:
  • Overproduction can result in high stress – panic attacks or anxiety and not being able to switch off at night

Acetyl Choline

Helps with memory and learning, signs and symptoms of a deficiency include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Light sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Highly reactive to stress

Serotonin

Helps with regulating sleep, mood and eating behaviours. Signs and symptoms of a deficiency include:

  • 95% of serotonin in the body is in the GUT! – Gluten effects serotonin production
  • Aggressiveness
  • Bad temper
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

(so if your guts not right your not going to feel happy)

Dopamine

Helps with motivation, mood regulation, memory and movement. Signs and symptoms of a deficiency include:

  • Restless legs (Fibromyalgia)
  • Low libido
  • Depression/low mood
  • Dull boring dreams or no memory of dreams

GABA

Helps with sleep maintenance and our main inhibitory brain chemical “stops excitatory brain chemicals” signs and symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Insomnia or struggles to fall asleep/waking during the night with a rushing mind

Cortisol.

Too much elevated Cortisol levels can interfere with every aspect of your health. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Learning and memory difficulties
  • Lowered immune function
  • Bone density
  • Increase weight gain or unable to loose weight even when under eating and exercising
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Keeps you in chronic stress
  • Increase risk for depression
  • Mental illness
  • Lower life expectancy
  • Inflammation in the body
  • Burn out your Adrenal Glands

Histamine

Helps with your immune system, proper digestion, and your central nervous system. As a neurotransmitter, it communicates important messages from your body to your brain. It is also a component of stomach acid, which is what helps you break down food in your stomach. Too much Histamine can cause:

  • Leaky Gut
  • DEO deficiencies
  • GI bleeding

Too little Histamine can cause:

  •       Arousal and wakefulness
  •       Loss of appetite
  •       Low stomach acid
  •       Food allergies
  •       Binge eating and cravings
  •       Dry skin allergies
  •       Tissue swelling
  •       Difficulty regulating temperature
  •       Fatigue
  •       Cramping around menstruation
  •       Anxiety
  •       Nasal congestion, sneezing,          difficulty breathing
  •     Vertigo or dizziness
  •       Arrhythmia, or accelerated heart rate

Parasites

Parasites can cause many issues when untreated and stop the healing process. The body becomes Malnutritioned and they can cause Leaky Gut and Fat Malabsorption, meaning the body doesn’t get the nutrients from the food you are eating as they take it all first. This then affects the Gut Flora and Microbiome and other deficiencies accrue. We all have parasites to some level but some are able to expel them natural without it causing them harm whilst others need medical help. Parasite can be picked up through:

  • Travel to other countries – e.g. “Bali Belly”
  • Weakened immune system
  • Pets and animals
  • Lack of hygiene

Signs and symptoms of them include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Wind
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Parasites can be passed through salvia and bodily fluids and from changing nappies so if one family member has them you all have them. Testing can be hard but worth persisting to find out which ones you have and the right treatment for them. Treatment can take up to 1 year and there are foods to help with expelling them as well as natural cleansers.

Candidia Yeast Overgrowths and Sibo

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (or SIBO) is a chronic bacterial (and/or yeast) infection of the small intestine, where excessive number and/or abnormal type of bacteria (and yeasts) growing in a part of the gastrointestinal tract that normal contains relatively few microorganisms.  These bacteria can cause a variety of problems by interfering with digestion and absorption of nutrients and by damaging the lining of the gut, causing a “Leaky Gut” Symptoms of bacterial overgrowth include abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, gas, belching, flatulence, chronic diarrhoea, and chronic constipation.  These symptoms are due to the large volume of bacteria the digestive tract (alive and dead, as they read the end of their lifecycle) and the large amount of gas and metabolic waste that they produce.  Many more symptoms of SIBO are a direct effect of nutrient mal-absorption (the body being starved even though you are eating). This arises either from the bacteria metabolizing those nutrients before we can absorb them or by the bacteria causing enough inflammation in the lining of the gut that it the gut can’t work properly anymore. The bacteria preferentially consume iron and vitamin B12, causing anemia.  The bacteria decrease fat absorption by de-conjugating bile, leading to deficiencies of vitamins A & D and causing fatty floating pale stools.  As the gut lining becomes increasingly inflamed and leaky, larger and not fully digested food particles enter the body, causing an immune reaction, which leads to food allergies and food sensitivities.  Bacteria themselves can enter the blood stream causing systemic inflammation and immune reactions that can lead to autoantibody formation and autoimmune diseases. The truth about fruit . . .

Read about my gut healing protocol here; Hannah’s Gut Healing Protocol.

To soy or not to soy?

Soy or soybeans, are a type of legume that have been used for 5,000 years in China for food like tofu, tempeh, and edamame beans and also for medicinal purposes. Soybeans are considered a source of protein, and are processed into many meat and dairy substitutes. The main producers of soy are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China and India. Over 80% of soy in the US is genetically modified, but that’s where almost all of the soy is now grown for our Australian foods, scary huh!!

So many of us have thyroid function issues and so many of us have undiagnosed Hypothyroidism when the doctor’s test comes back fine but we are still having symptoms. This often leaves us wondering why and how we can change this. Dr Mark Hyman has some great tips and advice on his website for this.

Studies are showing the connection to the increase in soy in so many of our foods now and issues with Thyroid function. It’s not just your soy milk latte but products you didn’t know it’s in like shampoo, bulking agent, hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), gums, soy Lecithin (chocolate) natural flavorings, Additive/emulsifier 322, stabilizer, thickeners, starch, shortening, and vegetable oils. Basically all packaged foods, especially kids foods.

So why is it so harmful?

Soy contains Phytoestrogens and is higher in phytoestrogens than just about any other food source. Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens that mimic estrogen in our bodies. Soy also has Goiltrogens that can disrupt your hormones, which can slow your thyroid down. Many foods are goitrogenic (thyroid suppressing) but soy is one of the worst. Goitrogens work by preventing your thyroid from getting the necessary amount of iodine. If you are low in iodine you will likely be suffering from chronic fatigue, adrenal Burnout and a host of other issue that are hard to correct. Trust me I lived on soy as a vegetarian and I’m in that place now.

It also has something called Phytates which are enzyme-inhibitors that block mineral absorption in human digestive tract. They are naturally present in all grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. But soy is so high in phytates that it’s almost impossible to get rid of them. Simply soaking soy overnight won’t be enough. But this is why it is so important to soak beans and legumes and most grains to stop bloating and cramps.

Finally soy is rich in trypsin inhibitors. Trypsin is a digestive enzyme we need to properly digest protein. Without enough trypsin, you’ll experience many digestive problems including stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bleeding. You’ll also be leaving yourself open to future problems with your pancreas.

There is studies done showing that an infant taking the recommended amount of baby soy formula is consuming a hormone load equivalent of 4 birth control pills a day! Is it any wonder we’ve seen such a dramatic rise in precocious puberty with young girls starting their periods at 6 and 7! Soy is also found in dairy formulas too. But I hear you saying, you said not dairy? There are still safer alternatives. there are recipes for coconut and avocado bases formulas you an make at home which have the right ratio of fats carbohydrates and minerals to be as close to mothers milk…far closer than cows breast milk!