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neurons1

Our Second Brain

The completion of the Human Genome Project has ushered in many new disciplines in science & research. One of the many exciting discoveries is just how important our gut is in overall health & well being. Many are referring to the gut as our “second brain” because of how it feeds everything from our brains to our skin.

Enteric Neural Science is what I’m referring to here, this area of study has only come out in the last 10 years. Embedded in the wall of our gut lies a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain, the Enteric Nervous System. The focus here is how the environment of our intestines affects our nerves & messages going to our brains. Our gut produces a wide array of hormones & neurotransmitters, some of the same classes as those found in the brain. Of these neurotransmitters, the main four you might have heard of before are Serotonin, Dopamine, Acetylcholine & Gaba.

All but one of our neurotransmitters is made from amino acids from the proteins we consume. Some are made entirely by our bodies & some are converted by the biologic machinery we have.

This is why what we put into our bodies is so important. It’s our neurotransmitters that guide our brain function. So if our gut is out of balance we might be high strung at times or depressed. Being in a depressed state will affect the function of our intestines, which affects the production of nerve hormones; which affects brain function. You see how this can be problematic?

Every single cell in our body is connected to the neural tree, made up of the food we eat.

Instead of thinking about food as carbs, fats, proteins, sugars, or calories. We should think of it like information. The food we eat talks to our genes & it can either be inflammatory or health provoking. It can sustain & maintain excellent health over a life time.

We require all the macronutrients (protein, fat & carbs) to make all parts of neurotransmitters for proper function. So foods that have things like anti-nutrients or any kind of dietary neurotoxin like phytic-acid, lectins, excessive caffeine, nicotine, vitamin/mineral depletion & alcohol can all affect neurotransmitter production.

I know what your thinking, “alcohol”! Yes alcohol, but don’t worry there are ways to combat the toxic affects of alcohol, more on this later.

The more we learn the more apparent it becomes that our digestive system sends way more messages to our brain then our brain does to our digestive system. In fact, 95% of the bodies serotonin is produced & housed in the gut, not the brain. Serotonin is one of our neurotransmitters that’s responsible for our mood. If serotonin levels are low we can experience anxiety & depression. Low serotonin levels are also associated with decreased immune system function.

Since the discovery that problems with the Enteric Nervous System are implicated in all sorts of conditions means the second brain deserves a lot more recognition than it has had in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

DNA

The Human Genome Project

Where do I begin…. The Human Genome Project started in 1990 with the goal of sequencing & identifying the Human Genome. On April 14, 2003 the successful completion of the HGP was announced. What does this mean for us? Well it’s pretty amazing actually, it’s like having a complete set of blueprints to the human body. The culmination of work done by Scientists & Doctors to date is pretty amazing.

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This picture represents the complete set of human DNA in book form……The Human Genome.

We are in the midst of an epidemic of autoimmune diseases. Asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ms, celiac disease, etc. These disease’s have only taken shape in the last 40-50 years. This amount of time is too short to blame on genetic changes. It takes centuries for genes to change not decades. We are changing our environment so fast that we cannot adapt & we are paying the price.

The completion of the HGP opened up countless avenues for study. Epigenetics for example, is the study of how our environment impacts & changes the expression of our genes. When I say environment I mean the food we eat, the air we breath, the chemicals we elect to use. Radiation maybe from the Fukushima disaster. The introduction of antibiotics coincides with the development of this epidemic of autoimmune diseases. Antibiotics are like a bomb that gets dropped on this village of bacteria. They kill both the good & bad colonies of bacteria.

Let me try to break this down as simple as I can. We know now that there are around twelve hundred different microorganisms that live in our gut at any given time. This is what they call the Microbiome & is thought to consist of 8,000,000 genes. The Human Genome is the full set of genetic blueprints that each baby inherits from it’s parents & consists of only about 20,000 genes.

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Those genes….the microbiome & our genes….the human genome are compatible & because they lived in piece with our mothers they will live in piece with us.

If we were lucky & born through natural delivery we inherit this wealth of bacteria from our mothers. This gut bacteria or gut flora is predominantly good bacteria. There is some bad bacteria but with out both we could not survive. The good is there to keep the bad in check in a sense. Unfortunately in this modern world we have an array of immune insults that if we aren’t careful can lead to a deficit in good bacteria. If your gut flora is abnormal the immune system cannot function well & we develop inflammation.

On the other hand, if you were born through c-section….both good & bad bacteria that was never supposed to be there can come in & affect us from birth. We know now this increases chances for autoimmunity by 3-4 times. Kinda scary huh?

Physiologists have known for decades that 90% of our immune systems are in our guts. The digestive system is the biggest & most important immune organ in the body. The environment we are exposed to impacts directly the composition of our gut bacteria. The food we choose on a daily basis has a dramatic impact on the development & maintenance of our gut health. It’s pretty safe to say we need to be very careful what we expose ourselves to because it has a direct impact on how we develop & age.

Every cell in our body is made up of the food we eat. Instead of thinking about food as carbs, fats, proteins, sugars, or calories. We should think of it like information. The food we eat talks to our genes & it can either be inflammatory or health provoking. It can sustain & maintain excellent health over a life time.

We know that just because you may be genetically skewed to develop cancer, celiac disease, or any other problem doesn’t mean you will. Thanks to the work done by cutting edge Doctors we now know there are three factors in the development of any autoimmune disease.

  1. A Genetic vulnerability to a particular condition (the genetic deck of cards you were dealt, you can’t change).
  2. An Environmental Trigger (the straw that broke the camels back). There are an array of tests becoming available that can identify these vulnerabilities.
  3. Intestinal Permiability (leaky gut). This is the one thing everyone of us can change & with only two components you don’t have the recipe for autoimmunity.

We need to heal & seal our gut lining so food has the chance to be digested properly before it absorbs into our blood stream. Once this is accomplished autoimmunity scales down & the immune system can rebalance itself & pull in all the soldiers that are fighting the battle.

Mainstream medicine continues to be driven by pharmaceuticals it seems & most Doctors aren’t going back to school to study postdoctoral. This is a very exciting time as far as technology & access to information. Share this information with as many people as you know. It really is amazing even with all this information how slow things spread. The next few blogs will help to bring all this around.