From Lauren: Today’s post comes from my friend Melanie Christner, who is a Certified GAPS Practitioner. I’m a huge fan of her GAPS Class, and I only wish I had been able to take this class when I started the GAPS Diet two years ago. You’ll get personal support from Melanie in the class, which is such an amazing opportunity.
Supporting your vagal nerve, as discussed below, is one of the most important pieces in healing the gut-brain axis. For anyone undertaking the GAPS Diet, I recommend they use our oil blend Vagal Tone™ to support the brain-gut healing and absorption of nutrients.
Gut health and brain health go hand-in-hand
It seems recently that every week there is a new article or program highlighting the connection between the digestion tract, and the health of the rest of the body. This is an idea that has been around for a really long time, but is now receiving its due attention.
Today I want to talk about the gut brain axis. On a personal level, one of the first beneficial brain outcomes from doing the digestive healing GAPS Protocol, was the removal of anxiety (that I didn’t fully realize I had until it was absent), and an ample increase in my happiness and productivity.
The gut has an intimate connection with the health of the brain. As Dr. Datis Kharrazian says,
“Everything you have ever experienced, felt, or conducted in life is due to brain function. The ability to enjoy, perceive, sense and experience life is dictated by the firing rate and health of your brain. It is impossible for a person to become healthy mentally or physiologically without a healthy brain.” – Datis Kharrazian, DC, M.S
The Brain-Gut Axis: How the Brain Affects the Gut
1. Good communication with the vagus nerve – The brainstem connects to the vagus nerve, which connects to all the digestive organs. The brain sends downstream signals through the vagus nerve to our organs, and the organs send upstream signals through this nerve to the brain. It is through the vagus nerve that the brain triggers critical digestive tasks like:
- Intestinal motility
- Stomach acid secretion
- Pancreatic enzymes
- Gallbladder contraction
2. Stress – when perceived by the brain, the sympathetic response (fight or flight) is triggered instead of the parasympathetic (rest & digest) response that is needed for good digestion. Stress also:
- Slows small intestine transit time
- Boosts overgrowth of bacteria
- Compromises the intestinal barrier
- A – C can can cause GERD, IBD, IBS, food allergies & intolerances, etc.
- Triggers inflammation via the cortisol response, which hurts the brain, which in turn can cause more stress, in turn causing more inflammation, and so on
3. Poor communication with the vagus nerve – poor brain communication to the vagus nerve leads to:
- Decreased blood flow in the intestines
- Which leads to increased pathogenic yeasts and bacteria
- Which leads to intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
- Which leads to chronic low grade inflammation
- Inflammatory cytokines, (along with gut opiates and gut peptides) cross the blood-brain barrier
- Which leads to a “leaky” brain barrier and “activated” microglia cells (brain’s immune cells)
- This leads to inflamed brain, decreased nerve conductance, & depression
- Which leads to decreased brain communication to the vagus nerve
- And the whole cycle begins again…
The Gut-Brain Axis: How the Gut Affects the Brain
1. Self-intoxication from the bowel – Glucose is meant to be turned into lactic acid, water & energy, but in a person with overgrowth of Candida and other yeasts, it goes through a fermentation instead and is converted to alcohol and its byproduct, acetaldehyde…producing an intoxicated state.
2. Destruction of beneficial microbes – from antibiotics, birth control, processed foods, chemicals, stress, etc. leads to an increase in pathogenic yeasts and bacterias. This leads to:
- Leaky gut
- Chronic low grade inflammation
- Inflammatory cytokines and other toxins damaging and crossing the blood-brain barrier
- Inflamed brain
- Decreased nerve conductance
- Depression and reduced vagus nerve communication
- And the whole cycle begins again…
3. Gluteomorphins & casomorphins – These are opiate like substances that come from the improper break down of the gluten and casein proteins found in grain and dairy products. These can replicate the symptoms of a drug addiction in both children and adults.
4. Low Serum Sulphate – Sulphate is very important for detoxification and neurotransmitter metabolism (our brain’s messengers). An overgrowth of pathogenic microbes can turn our sulphates into sulphites, turning them toxic instead of beneficial. Most autistic children have a severe deficiency in sulphates.
5. Metabolic wastes – Produced by pathogenic microbes in the gut, these metabolic wastes become neurotoxins to the brain.
How GAPS™ helps the Gut-Brain Connection
1. The GAPS Diet removes food stressors and common inflammatory foods like sugar, grains, vegetable oils, processed foods, unfermented and pasteurized dairy, grain alcohols, processed meats, food additives, etc.
2. GAPS teaches you simple methods for discovering your own personal inflammatory foods that could be problematic for your body. This individualizes the GAPS protocol for you.
3. The therapeutic use of foods (like bone & meat stocks) helps to heal the gut lining and promotes intestinal integrity, which means the flow of toxins from maldigested foods and pathogens are
4. Through fermented foods and probiotic supplementation, the healthy microbes in the digestive tract are helped and supported, which help crowd out pathogenic yeasts and bacteria
5. Juicing (one of the detoxification components), brings many flavonoids and other vitamins & minerals into the diet, which dampen the brain inflammation response, and support brain health
6. Fat soluble vitamins and fatty acids, so necessary for brain health, hormone messaging, and all cell formation, are plentiful in the GAPS Protocol
7. Optional GAPS digestive supplements can help jump start the repair of gut function while the brain gets better (see my article on helpful digestive supplements)
8. Neurotransmitter production is increased, helping with stress response, anxiety, depression and behavior
9. The detoxification components of GAPS gently helps the body remove toxins, which affect mental health
How can I get help with GAPS™?
If you are interested in improving the health of your brain, or that of your family members, the GAPS™ Protocol may be what you are looking for. The heart of GAPS is real food. Nourishing food. Healing food. Brain food. Gut food.
If you are considering GAPS already, or are already practicing it, but would like some support, I invite you to check out my family-friendly class here on the GAPS Protocol. The next GAPS class is enrolling now.
Here is what a couple of the participants from the previous class had to say:
“This class will provide you with the tools to be successful! If you intend to work with the GAPS diet, you will be much better prepared after taking this course. The Facebook forum is worth the price of the course all by itself… Don’t miss the opportunity to enroll!”
“Very good information about gut health, leaky gut, and how to heal it with GAPS and an awesome support community! Lots of great tips, recipes, and info on supplements to go along with the GAPS book. Access to our wonderful teacher, who patiently answered endless questions.”
For information and to register, please visit www.gapsclass.com. I hope to see you in class!
About Melanie Christner, instructor of GAPS Class
Melanie delights in helping you apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food…and becoming friends with your body again. She writes at HonestBody.com. As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have. Melanie is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Healing Foods Specialist (CFHS) in Vermont. For fun you can either find her playing in her kitchen, Nordic skiing, or swimming in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.