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HOLISTIC HEALTH - July 2017 - Kansas City

The Effect of Lifestyle, Nutrition and Stress on the Gut and Brain

By Nancy Russell, M.D.


After attending the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) conference June 1-3, 2007 at LA Marriott Live, many pearls of wisdom were presented by prominent nationally known speakers.


Applications of the microbiome-brain Connections presentation by David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM was one of the highlights.

Dr. Perlmutter is an Integrative, Functional Medicine physician and Board Certified neurologist practicing in Florida and also involved in research regarding Alzheimer’s disease.


There is a balance in the brain between inflammation and neurogenesis. If you have inflammation it affects neurogenesis or the production of nerve cells. The following diseases are signs of inflammation in the brain and nervous system; Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Multiple sclerosis, Stroke, Depression, Autism and ADHD.


This inflammation in the brain is related to flora, microbes, and organism balance also called the microbiome in the gastrointestinal system. This system is the one cell lining layer of this tract from your mouth to the anus.


A healthy microbiome leads to symbiosis; a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Factors for symbiosis include a high fiber, low sugar and gluten diet, natural birth, breast feeding, exposure to microbes, consumption of probiotics and favorable genetics. The effects of symbiosis include resolution of inflammation, integrity of the one cell lining layer called the epithelial layer, regulation of neutrophil activity, reduced T-helper 17 cells and increased treg or suppressor cells.


The opposite of symbiosis is dysbiosis. Dysbiosis or imbalance in the gut is caused by factors including antibiotic use, antibiotics in livestock, pathogenic bacteria, standard western diet, pesticides and insecticides in food, hygiene, obesity and stress. The effects of dysbiosis include inflammation, cancer and autoimmunity.


There is no doubt that modern behavior and dietary changes are altering the microbial ecology or microbiome of humans. Some of these changes are beneficial but others are disruptive and may be a driving force behind the rapidly increasing levels of chronic inflammatory diseases in developed countries as stated in the Journal of Human Evolution 79, 2015.


For example, there is an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in countries with a western diet and higher use of antibiotics such as United States, Japan, Germany, Greece, Austria, Denmark and lower risk in China, Phillippines, Iran, Kenya, India, Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia where the diet is not westernized and have increased parasite stress. The conclusion of this research indicated variation in hygiene as well as diet may partially explain global patterns in Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Microorganism exposure may be inversely related to AD risk.


Obesity is another huge issue in the western world. Obesity is associated with inflammation and hippocampal atrophy which are associated with cognitive decline. Obesity is associated with gut dysbiosis which leads to gut inflammation, increased leaky gut and nervous system inflammation. Genetics and life style probably determines which system is affected by the inflammation. For one person, inflammation may cause cancer, another Alzheimer's disease, another depression and another auto immune diseases.


Your heart and respiratory fitness is also a predictor of symbiosis or good gut flora balance. If you are not physically fit with good peak oxygen uptake, the gold standard of cardio respiratory fitness, your risk for dysbiosis and leaky gut increases.


Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Protonix and Nexium, etc. may be associated with clostridium difficile infections, hip fractures, community acquired pneumonia, vitamin B-12 deficiency and allergic reactions. Acid suppression from these drugs alters the gut flora or microbiome. They may also increase the risk of heart attacks and dementia.


To be proactive, change your diet. First eat more prebiotic foods such as jicama, garlic, dandelion greens and artichokes as well as probiotic foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha. Other good dietary changes include: avoidance of GMO foods, eating organic as much as possible, lower refined carbohydrates, increase healthy fats, increased fiber, and most importantly minimizing sugar and gluten intake. Other factors to improve brain health are adequate sleep, exercise and stress management. Each person can have an impact on their risk of inflammatory illnesses. Genetics loads the gun, but it is lifestyle that pulls the trigger!

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Nancy Russell, M.D. has been a holistic Internal Medicine physician in the Kansas City northland for over 30 years at 5140 N. Antioch Road in Kansas City, MO.


Her phone number is 816-453-5545 and website is where you can get more information. Dr. Russell is board certified in holistic medicine and is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association and a prior board member.

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