My assistant recently returned from the latest Institute for Functional Medicine conference in southern Florida. For those not familiar with Functional Medicine it is a personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes instead of symptoms for serious chronic disease. In other words, they teach Medical Doctors as well as all other specialties how to evaluate a person to get to the route of a problem or disease and treating the cause verses just treating the symptoms.
A big part of Functional Medicine includes the use of nutraceuticals in treatment.
This year’s conference centered on Mood Disorders, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder as well as touching base on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Amazingly, one of the focuses of the lectures was the gut-brain connection in relation to mood disorders. More specifically, how reactions of our immune system and gut inflammation can directly affect our brain.
Remember that most of our immune system is in our gut.
Without getting too technical, the same type of cells and neurotransmitters found in our brain are also located within the digestive system. The development of an infection or inflammation anywhere in the body will set the immune system in action. Again, most of this reaction takes place first within the immune system of the digestive tract. Our immune system responds by the reaction of proteins called cytokines. These cytokines tell our body what type of reaction to have, such as swelling, stiffness, pain etc…It has now been shown that these cytokines will travel a very unique pathway and arrive at the brain, setting into motion a chemical reaction that results in the breakdown of the neurotransmitters involved in mood stability and inflammation within the brain itself.
Once this brain inflammation develops, it can remain for months even though the initial problem in the other part of our body gets resolved. This brain reaction can result in symptoms such as brain fog, memory problems, depression and anxiety. In addition, the influx of these cytokines to the brain can disrupt the lining of the brain called the blood-brain-barrier, causing what they now call “Leaky Brain” syndrome, making the brain more susceptible to other agents that do not normally pass this barrier. This is very similar indeed to what we know as Leaky Gut syndrome.
The more inflammation and irritation of the gut lining, as in Leaky Gut, will in turn send more of the cytokines to the brain, resulting in more inflammation and irritation there. In reverse, they are now seeing that healing the gut, reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system with the proper nutraceuticals can in turn reduce depression, anxiety and even reduce some symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
All the more reason to take precautionary measures by supporting your immune system with probiotics, as well as your vitamins and minerals. Taking a glutamine supplement such as IntestiNew will help keep your intestinal tract healthy, reduce inflammation and defer the development of leaky gut.
It is funny that years ago scientists and doctors treated the brain and mood disorders as a total separate entity from the rest of the body. It is nice to see that they now realize the brain is connected to the body, through something called the neck!