by Hilary Bowring, Contributing Editor
Our immune system is a complex effort between our gut and our brain,including the help of a huge microbial ecosystem in our gut. Now termed our Microbiome. The leading edge of understanding how the body defends against disease of all kinds and can many times be returned to good health by natural means.
One of my key areas of interest is learning about boosting our immune system especially as Drs. are not taught much about this in med school and we increasingly need to be advocates for our health. My own journey included two bouts with cancer and chemotherapy, which saved my life but brutally compromised my immune system so I had to research ways to strengthen mine, including some lifestyle changes. Happily I am now in robust health. I’ve included several resources at the end of this article for those who want to learn more.
The Microbiome Is the new way of understanding the importance of the Gut: Brain connection for Human Health. How our human body is a complex environment that includes the presence of diverse bugs in our gut, in fact there are 38 trillion microbes in our body. Bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses, all living together in an ecosystem maintained by a complex communication system with the brain. The common aim is to keep this inner environment healthy for each other’s survival. When something is going wrong they message the brain to take corrective action via the Vagus nerve which extends down from the brain to the gut. The microbes respond quickly when pathogens are detected, notify the brain, which leaps to protective action.
Good Health is assured by a good Immune System
The brain and the gut communicate together and modulate our immune system. 70% of our immune system is in the gut, instructive messages go from gut to brain all the time. In normal healthy conditions metabolites from microbial digestion of food can signal a problem and the brain sets in motion the defence. When a pathogen enters the body, the microbes interact and the resulting metabolites stimulate the Vagus nerve, the brain immune cells ‘glial’ cells respond defensively, attacking and destroying the pathogen, then return to being neutral sentinels.
However things can go wrong..
Our Microbiome is mix of good and bad bacteria. Best mix is 80:20 good to bad. Bad bacteria increase with unsuitable or unhealthy diets. When there is imbalance a wide range of digestive disturbances occur, including diarrhea, cramping, constipation, bloating, indigestion and inflammation. And if inflammation continues the brain glial cells keep on firing and more and more neurones are killed by friendly fire, resulting in neurodegeneration and disease.
Inflammation is the normal response to damage. The body produces inflammation to protect from injury or infection, it presents as redness, heat, swelling, and pain. After the threat is minimized, inflammation goes down—usually within hours or days—and life goes on. However chronic inflammation can last for months and years and have long term dangerous effects on health.
The main cause of Chronic inflammation stems from Gut problems:
Leaky gut is the main one. The gut has a very fine wall that is constantly being rebuilt as damage to the gut wall occurs in everyday eating, some foods put a strain on the wall—spicy foods breach the wall and fragments cross the barrier. Usually this is repaired in a day or two by the microbes. Leaking can become a chronic problem due to diet or continued use of broad spectrum antibiotics; larger fragments cross the barrier which our body doesn’t recognize and mounts a massive distorted defence. Prolonged inflammation that can develop into food allergies or an autoimmune response against healthy cells.
In turn Inflammation in the Brain is influenced by the gut.
Several neurodegenerative brain diseases are now thought to be triggered by chronic inflammation in the gut: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Schizophrenia. As described earlier a problem detected in the gut triggers the immune system in the brain. The glial cells are activated and a few neurones do get damaged in this natural response. If this defense becomes prolonged due to leaky gut, the number of neurones dying is big enough to affect brain function. Causes brain disease for some with a genetic predisposition.
Lipopolysaccharides from bad bacteria are the root of this: With leaky gut their presence triggers inflammatory damage in the brain. The dietary link is still under investigation, foods high in saturated fats, like meat, are likely to increase their presence.
Treatment: It begins by increasing diversity in the Microbiome in the gut. Building up the good bacteria needed to restore the gut wall and overpower the bad bacteria.
- Spend time in Nature to build diversity: Touch the trees, garden without gloves, feel the soil. Hug and kiss your pets.
- Healthy Diet:
-Fibre intake is massively important to create a diversity of microbes in the gut, and encourage ‘good’ gut bacteria to flourish. Variety is key to increase the different bacteria types. High fibre diet includes cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower and root vegetable like onions, garlic, rutabaga, jicama.
-Cut out or reduce intake of Sugar, processed food, junk food snacks. Cut out or reduce trans fats found in vegetable oils,…. and for some people dairy and wheat are allergens
-Eat Organic veggies. Fermented vegetables( produce lots of good bacteria.) Eat less meat, more fish. Use high quality, high phenolic olive oil. Eat more fruit and red berries.
- Supplements: B12, Turmeric, Curcumin, Devils claw, Vitamin D, Glutathione.
- Probiotics are supplements of beneficial bacteria. The leading edge type are spore based that can accelerate repair of the gut lining and help with allergic response. Prebioticsare the foods probiotics feed on to survive. Foods include bananas and asparagus—lists on line.
- Alleviate Stress:
The Brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines, distress can come from anxiety, stress, or depression. We all know how anxiety can make our stomachs turn. ..Here comes the good news!
Meditation alleviates stress. There is much research on the way Meditation reduces stress. Especially chronic stress. It is now understood that there is a system in the brain called the Default mode network dedicated to our survival. It stores memories from the past to avoid danger. However for some people these stories, especially when founded in traumas, become their expectation of the future; negative thoughts continue going round and round like a loop. The network takes over from more balanced cognitive thinking, unable to focus on the here and now… There can be diseases associated: depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
Here is where Meditation can help. Meditation can open a doorway to inner centres of calmness and divine connection. Regular practice can build new neural circuitry away from the stress areas to the frontal lobe.
A study from Harvard found that when people went through 8 weeks of meditation, critical areas of the brain that associate with awareness, stress, and empathy change. They grew new grey matter in their cerebral cortex, which connects to attention and emotional integration. Also, the grey matter in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, decreased. (The Harvard Gazette, Jan 2011)
For Meditation to create neurological change we need a regular practice, same time each day, can be as short as 10 minutes. I have created a library of Meditation videos on my YouTube channel. Here is one to help De-stress.
Mind into the Heart Meditation
1.Podcast Relationship Goals: Your Gut Microbiome and Immune Function –November 2021. https://daveasprey.com/just-thrive-kiran-krishnan-864/
Kiran Krishnan, Research microbiologist. Expert in the newest frontier in microbiology—gut commensal spore bacteria. He partners with Just Thrive Health on prebiotics, probiotics and other gut health product development. Dave Asprey. Author of The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever– October 8, 2019
- Gut Immune system Solution programme. www.Gutimmunesolution.com. Goodness Lover YouTube channel. Link to Kiran Krishnan interview. https://youtu.be/oSb064e5a7o
- Nick Polizzi, Gut brain health. Proven: Brain Health & Restoring Cognitive Function
- 4. Book. “You can fix your brain” by Dr. Tom O’Brien. Plus website: https://thedr.com/
- Zach Bush MD. An amazing luminary on our connection with microbes of all kinds and their role in our evolutionary immunity.
- Dr. Kan. Heal your gut heal your brain. https://askdrkan.com/about-drkan-in-gilbert-az/
7. Book. “Fibre Fuelled by Will Buls
Hilary Bowring. B.Pharm.
Energy Healer, Meditation teacher and Author.
Extensive career in Communications.