At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 11-13, 2015) in Las Vegas there were several lectures pointing out the importance of the gut flora for proper brain function. If you have the wrong gut flora, you can get a number of diseases like diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, some cancers and even obesity. Martin P. Gallagher, MD, DC talked about this in his talk “Gut on Fire, Brain on Fire!”
Function of the microbiome
The microbiome is the sum of all microbial organisms inhabiting the human body, which colonize mainly the colon, but also to a lesser degree the small intestine. Dr. Gallagher stated that the microbiome weighs only 7.1 oz., although in the past have some have estimated its weight to be as high as 3 pounds. The purpose of the microbiome is to help form a gut/blood barrier. It forms a 30-micron thick layer in the GI tract, protects the intestinal lining and metabolizes food remnants, especially from carbohydrates. It also communicates with the immune system. There is a cross talk between the lining of the gut and the and the body’s immune system. The gut bacteria help the body to create stability; they also decrease intestinal permeability.
When inflammation occurs in the gut, the thickness of the biofilm is less than 30 microns. Intestinal permeability increases, which is called “leaky gut syndrome”. This can be the cause of autoimmune diseases and possibly other diseases.
The enteric nervous system
The gut can produce as many neurotransmitters as the brain and spinal cord can synthetize. The enteric nervous system communicates with the brain through the vagal nerve. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that has been found to regulate motility of the gut. The control system of the gut can work on its own and override the concerns of the central nervous system.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the enteric nervous system as well as the brain. With Alzheimer’s disease the characteristic lesions found in the brain are also found in the enteric nervous system!
In a mouse experiment a Lactobacillus strain known to be part of the microbiome was shown to heal anxiety and depression related changes in certain parts of the brains of these experimental animals. But when the vagal nerve of these animals was severed, none of these healing changes occurred. This suggests that the gut bacteria are able to communicate to the brain via the vagal nerve. Researchers have coined this connection the “gut-brain axis”. These protective gut bacteria have the ability to protect humans from gastric acidity, from bile acid toxicity, they adhere to the lining of the gut and they persist to reside within the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics help the immune system to maintain the immunologic memory and to secrete antibodies, called immunoglobulins.
Two strains with benefit to humans are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics often help against diarrhea. The natural food for gut bacteria in the colon comes from starches of chicory, asparagus, inulin and onions that are indigestible in the stomach and small intestine, but are fermented in the colon to provide food for the bacteria residing there.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Overgrowth of the small intestine with bacteria that produce endotoxins appears to have significance in both animal models and human disease. Chlamydia species as well as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) can produce toxins that cause hypersensitive of pain in soft tissues in fibromyalgia and animal models of fibromyalgia. SIBO-small intestinal bacterial overgrowth- in experimental animals caused the same hypersensitivity of the soft tissues and also leaky gut syndrome.
Risk factors for SIBO
What causes SIBO is too little stomach acid production, treatment with proton pump inhibitors (powerful anti acid medications) and antibiotics. According to Dr.Gallagher SIBO also occurs in postsurgical patients, in patients with diabetes, and is brought on by alcohol, nicotine, drugs and GMO foods.
Normally the blood brain barrier keeps immune cells from the body out of the brain. Only glucose, proteins and lipids are allowed into the brain, but not lipophilic neurotoxins. Neurogenic triggers, when admitted to the brain, will compromise the function of the immune cells of the CNS, called microglia. This can result in memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, seizures, migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, weakness, numbness, etc.
What triggers inflammation?
Here is a long list of different items that cause inflammation: aging, hormone deficiencies, obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, fungal infection, the Standard American diet (SAD), pain, trauma and mechanical stress, heavy metals, food allergies, toxins, gut dysbiosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, mal-digestion/absorption, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol, lack of exercise and lack of sleep.
Neurotoxic insults start the chain of reactions (heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, viruses/fungus/bacteria, inflammatory diet, MSG, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, etc.): one or more of these factors destabilize the tight junctions of the blood brain barrier, which leads to neurogenic inflammation. The result is Parkinson’s disease, MS, dementia, chronic pain, behavioral and personality changes, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Lyme disease.
What seems to be happening a lot is that there is overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the small bowel, which produce toxins. These in turn lead to leaky gut syndrome, which allows neurogenic triggers to attack the blood brain barrier. From here it is a short step to neurotoxic insults of the brain overstimulating the microglia, which will produce the diseases listed above.
Healing of brain inflammation
Treatment starts with the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. People who are gluten sensitive need to eliminate gluten entirely from their food; casein sensitive people need to eliminate dairy products. A triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil product is taken as a supplement every day with 4 grams or more of DHA/EPA.
Glutathione: One of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories is intravenous glutathione. This is given as intravenous chelation therapy, which removes heavy metals. Other chelation agents such as EDTA intravenously may be given alternatively. Dr.Gallagher said that glutathione serves as primary cellular defense against free radicals, is a powerful antioxidant and serves as detoxifying agent against xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are remnants of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and pollutants that are contained in crops we eat.
Dr. Gallagher gives 600mg of glutathione twice per day intravenously for 30 days. In Parkinson’s disease patients whose mid brain is often poisoned by mercury this leads to 42% decline of disabilities and the effect last for 2 to 4 months after this treatment has been stopped. This treatment also protects telomeres, the caps on the ends of cellular DNA as well as mitochondrial DNA. Glutathione is protective of neurons and nerves.
Curcumin: this common Indian spice, found in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. It is a safe natural agent and has also anti-viral and anti-tumor activities. It binds to the vitamin D receptor and works synergistically together with vitamin D3. Solid lipid curcumin particle technology makes curcumin 65-fold more bioavailable; free curcumin is allowed to pass the blood brain barrier. Lower doses achieve the same effect than regular curcumin.
According to a publication using lipidated curcumin the following observations were made: improved vascular function, inflammatory markers reduced by 14%, triglycerides lowered by 14%, oxidative stress reduced, catalase increased and total antioxidant status improved.
Omega-3 fatty acids: omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory by countering the arachidonic acid pathway that leads to inflammation. It is best administered as triple strength, molecularly distilled fish oil. DHA/EPA are the active ingredients. Chronic inflammation requires 2 to 12 grams daily; irritable bowel syndrome 6 to 12 grams daily; depression, anxiety and insomnia require 2 to 4 grams per day; autoimmune disease, back pain and degenerative joint disease 4 to 12 grams per day.
Gut/brain dysbiosis: For gut/brain dysbiosis Dr. Gallagher recommended to start with a 10-day fruit/vegetable detox program. Milk thistle, glutathione and pancreatic enzymes are used in combination. Lipidated curcumin. Glutamine, prebiotics and probiotics are given for gut support. Molecularly distilled fish oil (DHA/EPA) and vitamin D3 are given as anti-inflammatories. Oral and intravenous glutathione is given to detoxify. Antifungals are given as a combination of glutathione, oregano, olive leaf and silver salts.
Inflammation can start in the gut, lead to leaky gut syndrome and break down the blood/brain barrier. The end result is that the brain also gets inflamed and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can occur. The sooner treatment is begun, the faster the recovery will be. When the end stage is reached, it is difficult to turn the inflammatory process around. Fortunately there are effective ways to get the inflammation under control with intravenous glutathione in the beginning and subsequent treatment with lipidated curcumin, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D3. A permanent switch to a Mediterranean diet is important as well to keep inflammation under control.
A few years back this type of approach would have been considered as “quackery”; now it is the latest information from research into the brain/gut connection. A lot can be done on a preventative basis with lifestyle and nutrition choices. Treatment is possible, but once full-fledged disease is established, a full cure may not be possible.
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