Scientists have been looking at the gut-brain connection for decades.
We already know that if the gut is damaged, that can lead to nutrient deficiencies which can lead to brain disorders.
Scientists have also been looking into the affects that bacteria have on the brain. In fact, as early as the 1920’s scientists were reporting the connection between schizophrenia, mental disorders and the micro-biome of the intestines.
When our guts get damaged, the bacteria become altered. This creates a condition called dysbiosis where the ratio of good to bad bacteria is off-kilter. It can also mean that there’s too much of a certain kind of good bacteria, which can also be problematic.
When our guts are damaged and sugars from carbohydrates aren’t properly being broken down, they sit in our intestines and begin to ferment. This fermentation process is the result of bacteria feeding on the undigested sugars. This fermentation process produces toxic gases and acids such as D-Lactic acid. “High amounts of D-lactic acid in the bloodstream have been found to cause bizarre behavioral symptoms.” It is thought that these by-products of carbohydrate fermentation, along with the exudates (think bug poo) and metabolic products of the bacteria can pass through the blood-brain barrier and cause brain damage.
Since our bacteria feed primarily on sugars found in things such as grains and dairy, these food items can potentially cause brain damage through the processes just mentioned. Avoidance of these sources of carbohydrates has been shown to provide the best methods of intestinal and mental management.
Thousands of anecdotal reports of improved brain function while healing the intestines have been documented. Different conditions ranging from schizophrenia to epilepsy and seizures have been reported to improve once dietary sources of grains were removed and the person started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
I can say for myself that when my gut is not functioning right I’m prone to nightmares and when my ulcerative colitis is being managed better my sleep is of a much greater quality.
The gut-brain connection is especially evident in the case of autism.
The past few years has shown remarkable connections between autism and poor gut health. Scientists have shown that those with autism have over twice the amount of g.i. symptoms than those without autism. The frequency of abnormal stool patterns in autistic kids is over 4 times(!) that of non autistic children. (1)
The connection between autism and poor digestive health is apparent in many parents of autistic children. Many times parents put their kids on gluten free diets to help with the Autism, which it might, but many times it fails to completely address the problem. Why going gluten free isn’t enough was discussed in the last article. If the damage to the intestine is too much, then all grains, not just gluten free grains will cause problems. This is because all grains can feed yeast and bacterial overgrowth. These need to be taken care of if the person wants to heal.
Remember how people become deficient in enzymes when their guts get damaged? Well 55% of those with autism have deficiencies in lactase, the enzyme needed to break apart milk sugars, and 15% show deficiencies in enzymes needed to break apart disaccharides. The gut-autism connection can be explained the same way as the gut-brain connection. The fermentation of sugars by certain carbohydrates results in the following problems:
- Production of excess amounts of short chain volatile fatty aids (organic acids)
- Lowering of the pH of the blood as these acids are absorbed
- Overgrowth of bacteria as the undigested carbohydrates provide food for bacterial proliferation
- Mutation of some bacteria such as E. Coli because of the change in pH in their colonic environment, and
- Excess toxin production caused by the overgrowth of some pathological bacteria.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle, page 55
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is unique in that it eliminates both the gluten that causes intestinal damage along with the starches and carbohydrates that feed the bacteria in our guts. While minimizing bacterial fermentation it also aims to provide maximal nutrition.
I hope you learned some things about how the gut affects the brain. I know I sure did.
In the next part of this series I’ll cover chapters 9 (Introducing the Diet) and 10 (The Specific Carbohydrate Diet™).
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