The Mind-Gut Connection
Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) are now, under the 2016 Rome IV update, classified as disorders of gut-brain interaction (DBGI). Data collected internationally between neuroscientists and microbiologists are now trying to determine the best diagnosis and treatment for the general health & wellbeing of patients who suffer from GI disorders. Scientists have collected data from a series of lab tests that suggest the microbiota in the gut can communicate with the brain. What is clear is that gut microbiota is related to psychological behavior patterns like stress, depression, irritability, and anxiety. As this research continues, it will be necessary to pay close attention to the microbiota-gut-brain axis because it could revolutionize the diagnosis, treatment, and the knowledge to stop the debilitating illnesses related to an abnormal GI tract. The unknown factor is if the gut microbiota interacts with the immune, endocrine, neurological systems (or all three cohesively) as pathways to the brain.
Gut Microbiota and the Central Nervous System (CNS)
The gut microbiota plays a vital role in the body. Our bodies have trillions of microbiota that include fungus, bacteria, and viruses, and a large number of them live in the gut. When an imbalance occurs, it affects a person’s physical and psychological health. The immune system, nutritional intake, and mental health behaviors all originate in the stomach which explains why there is a reactive state from different areas in the body.
The enteric nervous system, or the second brain, is enclosed in the lining of the gastrointestinal system. The lack of balance over time branches out from the ENS and affects the entire GI tract, the central nervous system, and the brain. It is during this stage that patients begin to suffer from stress, irritability, anxiety.
Gut Health and Anxiety
The Microbiome Journal recently published new research that shows that neurological and psychiatric disorders are associated with unhealthy gut microbiota that disrupts the microRNA molecules in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex of the brain. The amygdala is a set of nuclei in the temporal lobes that are thought to be a part of the limbic system which controls the body’s emotions. The amygdala communicates with the prefrontal cortex which determines personality, attention span, and emotional behaviors. The loss of communication between the gut, the amygdala, and the prefrontal lobe shows excellent promise in explaining how the body works as one unit instead of many organs with separate duties. Being able to link many of the leading physical and mental illnesses back to the gut is extraordinary. It gives hope to people suffering from GI conditions that doctors are on the cusp of a breakthrough where things like gut health and depression are concerned.
The GAPS Diet
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas was adopted from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). What is interesting about the specific plan is that it is a natural approach to treat the inflammation in the GI tract because of damage to the gut lining (which houses the ENS that communicates with the brain).
The GAPS Diet removes foods that the body has difficulty digesting and replaces it with nutrient-heavy foods that help the intestinal lining heal. The diet also helps rebuilds the immune system and restore the microbiota balance in the stomach.
The introduction has six phases that can take as much as six weeks to complete because the severity of symptoms differ in people suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, IBS, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Candida, gastritis, and other leading GI conditions where diarrhea, pain, and constipation are present. The Full Gaps Diet recommends daily consumption of fermented foods, meats, vegetables, eggs, and fish.
For people suffering from Candida, it will be necessary to eliminate sugar, yeast, and nuts. With Celiac Disease, avoiding grains, oats, rye, barley, and gluten-containing products will allow the gut to heal while also creating a lifestyle change that will permanently stop physical reactions. The diet plan also notes that a nutritional supplementation may be necessary which recommends a blend of therapeutic probiotics, digestive enzymes, fatty acids, Vitamin A, and other supplements that will support a healthy environment for gut microbiota.