Start At The Root: Gut Health
A Small summation of Digestion…
The food that you eat starts getting digested from your mouth via chewing and enzymes in the saliva. This then goes to the stomach where there is stomach acid and digestive juice that starts the main digestion process. The semi digested (should be at this point if the stomach isn’t low on acids or you didn’t chew the food properly) food then goes to your small intestine where there are more enzymes that further facilitate digestion. Nutrients from food get absorbed in this as well. The undigested food then goes to large intestine for holdup until excretion. If there is not proper digestion the undigested food is then rotten in the large intestine. This produces toxins. The small intestine along with the large intestine or bowel is mainly referred to as GUT although some cases refer the Gastrointestinal Tract as the gut. Nevertheless, the Gut is where the digestion and absorption of nutrients happen. There are bacteria growing in the gut which are both good and bad in nature. If there is more undigested food then more bad bacteria (think of food getting spoilt!!) if your digestion is good then there are more good bacteria that produces good nutrients and also help immunity.
The Gut-Brain Axis…
The Gut and Brain shares a bi-direction (two ways) communication via the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the enteric nervous system (ENS), the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system. They communicate via a continuous loop between sensory neurons in the gastrointestinal tract (or GIT- the tunnel of Mouth to anus) and motor response generated by the Central Nervous System (or CNS- Brain and spine).
If due to improper digestion toxins are produced then the said toxins very easily raids the brain functions and leads to neurological conditions such as depression, anxiety, brain fog, learning disabilities, poor memory, Autism, ADHD, developmental delays etc. This phenomenon is more explained, researched and coined as Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. Many new researches are emerging that are finding the innate connection of Gut with Brain and the development of Neurological disorders. What the alternative medicines such as Holistic Nutrition and Ayurveda have been preaching for centuries, is now being established via scientific researches1.
How is our immunity in the gut…?
The entire length of the gut is inhibited by a protective layer of good bacteria that forms a thick wall protecting the gut wall from pathogenic microorganisms by producing antibiotic, antifungals and antiviral substances. The last 3rd of the small intestine is an important portion of the gut as it hosts lymph nodes that are very important part of our immunity and does some major tasks. Firstly, it filters our tissue fluid that surrounds our cells and by doing so keeps our cells healthy and free of toxins (such as dead cells, bacteria, fungi, virus, and cancer cells). These nodes are the prison grounds for holding up these nasties and help our immunity in turn. Secondly, these lymph nodes produce lymphocytes that are a major part of our fighter cells to kill pathogens and microbes. In autism kids, due to the disbalance and improper evacuation (poop!) these lymph nodes become unable to perform their function properly 2. The term Microflora means a symbiotic, helping each other, community of microbes that are populating our gut.
Importance of the Microflora community in gut…
- Provides a physical barrier
- Produces antibiotics for fighting bad microbes.
- Produces organic acids that reduces the pH near the wall of the gut thus making the environment acidic (pH 4.0 -5.0), which makes it hard for bad bacteria to thrive.
- Normal gut flora (the microbes living in the gut) provides a major source of energy and nourishment for the cells lining the digestive tract. They do so by further digesting available food. Gut lining gets 60-70% of its nourishment from these goof bacteria!! So you can understand why their presence in great amount is so essential.
- These bacteria also synthesize various nutrients like vitamin K2 (which is why autist kids have low vit K), Vitamin B3, B6, B2, B 12, various amino acids, and other actives. B vitamins are absolutely essential for neurons (brain) to function properly as well as cell metabolism, energy conversion, cell health, red blood cell production etc 2,3.
Studies show that the whole of the immune system of autistic children and adults are out of balance. When a baby is born, his/her immune system is very immature and fragile. The first 20 days are very crucial for the baby’s immune development and if it doesn’t grow properly then the baby is left immune compromised. Within these 20 days the beneficial bacteria supposedly establishes themselves in the baby’s gut. Autist kids have compromised immunity and a low level of these beneficial bacteria. Understanding this concept is essential to treat your kid.
Gut Health in a nutshell…
The term Autistic Enterocolitis has been coined by Dr. Wakefield in 1998 who worked at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He and his team did endoscopy and gut biopsy of hundreds of autistic child and identified a condition of the Lymph nodes of Illeum (the last 3rd of the small intestine mentioned above). What they found was compacted feces (poop), inflammation (redness, swelling, painful areas), small pus filled abscess and ulcers in these children. The majority of the children had moderate to severe constipation. There is a very good chance your son or daughter has these in their gut as well if they have constipation, very smelly poop, and bad breath even though they brush their teeth regularly4.
The combination their restrictive diet preference and disbalanced gut the digestive health is indeed gravely poor in these kids. I didn’t know such importance and impact of digestion in these kids a 1 year ago!! I knew and wholeheartedly believed in the importance of nutrition but a lot of the “healthy” foods were in fact causing damage to him. Dairy twice a day, gluten and starch from rice, wheat based products, potato twice has wreaked havoc on his system as the majority of his diet (just like you all) was carbohydrate based.
Key pointers that you should take from this article are as follows:
- Proper Digestion is the key to good gut health and reduction of neurological disorders.
- Gut and brain is Connected and hence good gut is essential for brain function
- Gut has various microbiota which aids in digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients from food. It also produces vitamins that aids in brain functions further.
- Autistic children suffers constipation and together with their food preference the gut is inflamed and chocked with compacted feces and this lead to a plethora of gastrointestinal conditions.
- Gut is also where 80% of the immunity resides and therefor gut health is absolutely essential for brain and other physiological development and prevention of diseases.
I hope you can take away some much needed information and this has given some key pointers to understand the route to healing.
Up Coming post- What Can Damage the Gut Flora: The Truths on Antibiotics, Drugs, Pesticides, Chemicals etc…
- Foster, J. A., & Neufeld, K. A. M. (2013). Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312.
- Finegold, S. M. (2011). State of the art; microbiology in health and disease. Intestinal bacterial flora in autism. Anaerobe, 17(6), 367-368.
- Galiatsatos, P., Gologan, A., & Lamoureux, E. (2009). Autistic enterocolitis: fact or fiction?. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 23.
- Wakefield AJ, Anthony A et al.(2001). Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders. AIA Journal.