1. Leaky gut syndrome. Normally the cells in the walls of our intestines form nice, tight junctures that keep harmful toxins and pathogens – things we don’t want circulating through our body – locked inside the digestive system until they are eliminated. However, when gaps develop between these cells due to a variety of factors including poor diet, food sensitivities, stress, antibiotic use and lack of Vitamin D, the intestines become permeable and allow undigested food particles and substances to get into the bloodstream. Your body’s immune system knows these substances don’t belong there, so it “attacks” them, leading to widespread inflammation, which in turn can cause any of the above-listed symptoms. (You can read more about leaky gut here.)
Once the body’s immune system is in overdrive, it becomes crucial to repair the gut so the immune system and resulting inflammation can calm down. It’s also crucial to address any other pathogens that could be circulating through the body’s system. (We’ll discuss that in a minute.) At our clinics, we can use a Food Sensitivity Panel and other tests to look for leaky gut, then utilize an individualized approach that can include dietary changes, supplements and other methods to facilitate gut healing.
2. Candida, parasites, bugs and bacteria. OK, that sounds really yucky and scary, but don’t be too alarmed. Candida albicans is a fungus most of us have in our bodies that’s found in the GI systems, mouth and vaginas of most healthy people, and is usually harmless. (5) However, candida is very opportunistic and can multiply rapidly and grow out of control if certain conditions exist. These conditions include eating a carb-heavy diet, being under stress or taking antibiotics, birth control pills or steroids. Candida overgrowth can lead to a host of symptoms that includes GI issues, menstrual problems, fatigue, depression, headaches, anxiety, depression, brain fog, muscle and joint aches…the list goes on and on. (6) Candida overgrowth and leaky gut often go hand-in-hand.
Parasites, bugs and harmful bacteria can also cause poor gut and brain health. These pathogens can be encountered through undercooked meat and fish, contaminated food or vegetables or drinking or swimming in unclean water.
And, guess what? Traditional medical doctors rarely test for any of these things when patients come to them suffering from poor health! But, as we’ve established, if these culprits are affecting your GI health, your brain and body health will suffer as well. If we suspect you are suffering from candida, parasites, bugs or bacteria, we have an array of tests we can utilize to find out exactly what’s causing the problem so we can effectively treat it. The stool test you are seeing below is from a patient, we will call her Brenda, who complained of insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome which caused episodes of diarrhea and constipation. She was told by her doctors that her digestive testing was all normal except for her colonoscopy, where they could see some inflammation in her colon, but couldn’t tell her why, so they prescribed IBS medication. As you can see from the stool test we ordered there were lots of reasons for the inflammation. Why had her doctors told her everything was normal? Because it was, according to their testing. The problem is many hospitals or local labs use outdated microscopic evaluation of stool samples to detect parasites or worms. This testing has many false negatives. Our testing uses a lab that does DNA/PCR analysis. This test has been found to be 3,000 times more sensitive because it uses a DNA analysis to detect bugs and bacteria. It doesn’t only detect worms and parasites, but can be used to detect overgrowth of bacteria, H. pylori and fungi/yeast. As you can see below, Brenda’s testing showed a lot of overgrowth and fungi. With treatments specific to healing her gut, reducing the overgrowth of bacteria and eliminating the fungi, she is now sleeping through the night and no longer reports having IBS.
3. Lipopolysaccharides. The name is quite a mouthful, but basically lipopolysaccharides, or “LPS” for short, are bacterial toxins. LPS exist on the membrane of certain bacteria and are typically kept safely in the gut. However, when leaky gut occurs, these bacteria can enter the bloodstream at higher than normal levels. Certain high-fat diets can cause LPS levels to rise in the blood, as well.
Changes in the microbiome that allow LPS to escape into the bloodstream are linked to inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation is linked to metabolic conditions including insulin resistance and arteriosclerosis. (7) LPS has been found to be a triggering factor in the onset of insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes. (8). Leaky gut and high LPS levels have also been linked with many conditions that affect the brain, including depression and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (9) (10) (11)
As you can see, this toxin you’ve probably never heard of (don’t worry, your doctor probably hasn’t either) can wreak havoc on the body. At our center, we can test to see if high LPS levels could be causing your health problems and treat you accordingly.
4. Amino acid and nutrient deficiencies. As we’ve established, your gut is where most of your neurotransmitters are made. And for these important neurotransmitters that affect your mood, motivation and energy (such as serotonin and dopamine) to be made at optimal levels requires you to have optimal levels of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters, and if you are suffering from deficiencies or imbalances in amino acids or other important nutrients, your brain and body will pay the price.
At our center, we use an organic acid test to assess your levels and metabolism of nutrients and amino acids. Once we analyze your results, we can use dietary changes, supplements and other methods to improve your levels and metabolism, and thus improve your brain health.
5. Chronic stress. When we’re under stress, many of us experience GI issues that can include an upset stomach or diarrhea. But, did you know chronic stress can exacerbate these issues and lead to more GI upset that then leads to “brain upset”? Let me explain how.
When we’re under stress, our body makes excess cortisol, aka the “fight or flight” hormone. But, because we aren’t fighting or running from a predator, the cortisol has nowhere to go and builds up in our bodies. Too much cortisol lowers our stomach acid levels, and without enough stomach acid, the body can’t properly absorb vitamins and minerals. Without proper levels of vitamins and minerals, the GI system can’t make the neurotransmitters we need to feel motivated and energetic or to sleep and relax. Too little stomach acid also means the GI system isn’t able to kill off the bugs, bacteria and parasites we talked about earlier. You can see what a slippery slope this is.
On top of that, what started out as a stomach issue can move deeper into the intestines, leading to inflammation and further problems. You might experience colitis, IBS or constipation. The bad news is without a healthy gut, these conditions will only get worse, because a healthy brain-gut connection is necessary to regulate how we respond to stress. (12). The good news is if you’ve been under chronic stress, we can test and see if your GI system is functioning as it should be and use your test results to get to work on returning you back to good health.
Isn’t the brain-gut connection amazing? What’s even more amazing is how much better our patients feel once their guts are healed! The drugs most doctors give out will never do this. The only way to truly heal and be well is to find and treat the ROOT CAUSE of your issues. And I’m humbled and honored to say that here at our center, it’s something we do every day.
If you feel like traditional medicine is failing you, WE CAN HELP! If you have already tried drugs and therapy but still don’t feel your brain health, digestive health, energy or mood are where they need to be, it’s important to seek help from a certified functional medicine practitioner (C.F.M.P.) who is trained to look at all aspects of your health. Get started today and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our doctors to learn more about how you can regain your health and start living again!
If you have questions or want to schedule a free consultation, contact us at (734) 530-3067 or click the link below.