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  • Writer's pictureMollie Maxwell

Doorway to the body and The gut-brain axis.

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

If the eye is the window to the soul, the mouth is the doorway to the body.

Everything that you put in your mouth has an effect on the body, from the food you eat, what you drink, chew, swallow and smoke. It all goes in the mouth and then what ? It goes via the stomach to the gut, which is really just an extension of tube that starts in the mouth. What goes through this tube affects every system in your body, blood stream, brain, heart, liver, kidneys and this in turn affects your health and determines whether you will suffer from chronic diseases, degenerative conditions , depression, poor health and faster ageing.

Your gut is lined with bacteria, which all live in relative harmony until a foreign bacteria or food substance that it doesn't recognise arrives and it has to learn how to deal with it. The more unnatural substances that arrive in the gut, the harder it is to deal with it and eventually the gut lining "leaks" these substances into the blood stream and causes havoc. This is sometimes the start of a chronic health problem such as depression, "leaky gut syndrome" , auto immune diseases, and much more. Often it has been caused by the gut bacteria getting overloaded and being unable to handle food that is far removed from what our ancestors have eaten for millennia.

The gut-brain axis: The gut and brain interact closely with one another and are intimately connected. Just as anxiety and stress can cause stomach upset, so too can gut imbalance affect mood, depression and anxiety. Not only is the gut-brain axis a two directional communication system it also extends to affecting the metabolic, endocrine and immune systems, allowing the brain to influence the intestinal activity and the gut to influence mood, cognition and mental health. The bacteria ( microbiome) that live in the gut are finely balanced and influence many bodily functions. For example short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) produced by bacterial fermentation of dietary carbohydrates are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and can regulate the microglia required for proper brain development and behaviour modulation . They also can regulate the synthesis of serotonin which is a major factor in depression. 95% of of total body serotonin is produced in the gut. It has also been linked to Autism spectrum disorder. Another by-product of gut bacteria crosses the lining of the gut and causes what is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome, which is known to be a problem in patients with major depression , a heightened immune response and other gut related disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and diabetes and some allergies. It has also been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimers disease, asthma and other inflammatory conditions.

Supplementation with probiotics and fermented foods could influence the tight junctions of the lining of the gut that in turn may influence control of the gut bacterial imbalance and help to control some of these conditions.

The industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago, changed our lifestyles dramatically and the processing of food in factories has changed our diet beyond recognition. Unfortunately our bodies have not evolved fast enough to be able to handle food that is not biologically suited to humans and the system goes awry. By loading up on processed foods and chemicals , the bacteria that live in our gut become so disrupted that the balance of good and bad bacteria shifts towards chaos and our bodies become silently inflamed which as mentioned before can cause long term health issues that undermine our wellbeing.

If we were to shift our eating patterns back to something resembling pre-industrial revolution, and include whole grains, seeds, legumes, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, our gut microbiome could in time return to a healthy flora and the chronic inflammation would get tamed. It is of course rather more complicated than this and every body is different, but for most people and more basic diet as described omitting highly processed sugars, highly refined wheat products, unnatural colourings and flavourings, huge amounts of meat and animal fats would be a great start to returning the gut to some kind of balance and controlling the health issues that come from a gut that is under stress.


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