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Keeping a Leaky Gut and Inflammation From Going to Your Head
In fitness it is referred to as core strength training. In self-improvement circles it's often referred to as being centered or finding your own personal balance point. In ancient religions, and certainly central to the martial arts and other similar practices, it is commonly referred to as discovering your life force, the flow of energy that sustains all living beings.
In health, that source point is the gut, and not just as a predictor of our physical health, but our mental health as well.
This linkage between our gut and our state of mind has been referenced as early as the 19th century. Many early scientists were making a connection between accumulated waste and toxins emanating from the gut, which were producing infections that they linked with depression, anxiety and psychosis. Today, this connection is being rediscovered by a current scientific study that may soon bring the link between the gut and the brain into clearer focus. While cautioning that much more research into the mechanisms by which gut bacteria interacts with the brain needs to be done, early findings suggest that future development of probiotic treatments could well prove to affect brain function in beneficial ways.
As encouraging as this may sound, those knowledgeable about this field of study admit that the gut microbe system remains little understood in current general medical practice.
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Alejandro Junger is one of the leaders in this field of study. In the introduction to his book, "Clean Gut," he explains how a lesson taught to him as a child by the family gardener led him to a conviction that gut dysfunction has to be looked at as a potential source of chronic imbalance elsewhere in the body. Just as a tree's health and its disease start at its roots, to treat human disease, you must get to the root of it.
"The most common toxins come in our food, and your gut bears the brunt of these toxins," Dr. Junger points out. "Even toxins that are absorbed through your skin and lungs will eventually end up causing havoc in your gut. ... The reality is that life these days is not gut friendly."
It is perhaps why diseases rare in the 1980s, such as autoimmune disease, are now seen as epidemic. Given all the advances in medicine, Dr. Junger believes that medical practice has merely gotten better at "painting the leaves" and attacking individual diseases and symptoms rather than attacking root causes.
All chronic diseases share one common condition — inflammation.
The connection between the gut and chronic inflammation was first brought to popular attention by gastroenterologist Alessio Fasano in a study 15 years ago that showed that sensitivity to a common food protein — gluten — can turn the gut "leaky," meaning creating microscopic leakage into the bloodstream and lymph system which triggers an inflammatory response. A host of common factors can cause this condition from alcohol, to processed foods, to overexposure to antibiotics.
Chronic inflammation can cause problems in many places. The brain cannot be excluded. A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry found that people with clinical depression had levels of inflammation 30 percent higher than those in a control group. This may well be caused by a leaky gut, says UCLA gastroenterologist Kirsten Tillisch, in an article in the April edition of Men's Journal. The nervous system's connection between the brain and the gut is one of the strongest in the body, Dr. Tillisch says. It is reasonable to believe that if inflammation goes up the gut, it could rise to the brain.
Maybe it's time to try a new approach.
We are not helpless in dealing with gut dysfunction and inflammation. There are simple approaches you can take today to keep your immune system in check. Among those suggested by the folks at Men's Journal:
Eat vegetables daily and vary them — People who eat more than 25 species of plants a week have the greatest diversity of "good" bacteria in their gut as a result.
Take omega-3 and vitamin D daily — Both seem to lessen inflammatory response. Check with nutrition experts on daily dosage and reliable brands.
Spice it up — Spices offer huge anti-inflammatory benefits, especially turmeric.
Are you flossing? — The mouth, like the gut, serves as a portal for bad bacteria to enter the bloodstream and triggers an immune-system response. Spend an extra 20 seconds or more on your teeth every day.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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