Gut, and Brain Health Equals Behavior
By Ross Stewart- Phd
When I started my career decades ago as a counselor and psychologist, I believed that I could help people enormously with their personal problems with good psychology and intervention skills. In the 1970s I was correct! As time progressed, however, our increasingly stressful lives, toxic environment, and declining health made even powerful psychological intervention techniques dramatically less helpful. To be able to effectively help my patients, I had to look deeper.
I knew that to make a difference in my patient’s lives I had to address their health so about 25 years ago I began studying and implementing clinical nutrition and brain chemistry.
Today, we are living in a nutritional time of crisis, our malnourished bodies and starving brains are not a match for the constant assault of environmental toxins and stressful lifestyle. It has been said that if it were not for modern dentistry, our teeth would be so destroyed by decay that we would be unable to eat. We would die off and leave an empty continent. To think, to feel happy and to be able to successfully deal with challenges of everyday life, we have to give our brains and bodies a fighting chance. If you eat food, this article is about you!
For many years, I heard, you are what you eat. I even said it more times than I can count. Then I learned that the accurate statement is, you are what you assimilate. Which means that for you to be health and thrive your digestive system must be healthy and able to recognize and appropriately process nutrients and waste material.
Here is the science behind it. At the heart of all of these issues is blood sugar regulation. If given the opportunity, our bodies are genius at regulating blood sugar. We have, with the advent of processed foods in the 1930s, so overwhelmed the body’s regulatory systems that practically all Americans are diabetic for at least some small portion of the day. Here’s how it works. Our teeth, mouth and stomach are designed for protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat sources like meat and fish, vegetables, roots, nuts, beans and seeds. We have hydrochloric acid in our stomachs and a variety of enzymes that efficiently break down these foods, utilize the nutrients and store the blood sugar in the liver in the form of glucagon. The pancreas gland also produce enzymes, or digestive juices, that are secreted into the small intestine to further break down food after it has left the stomach. The gland produces the hormone insulin as well and secretes it into the bloodstream in order to regulate the body’s glucose or sugar level. Every cell in our bodies is energized by blood sugar.
For the last 80 years, we have been putting stress on the pancreas by overloading it with low grade carbs like bread, white rice, sugar and processed food. When the blood sugar levels spike the pancreas send out appropriately high levels of insulin to cope with the high levels of blood sugar to bring it back to normal. Over time the pancreas loses it’s effectiveness, type 2 diabetes is just one of the consequences. When blood sugar drops below normal you can experience many unpleasant symptoms including depression, exhaustion, insomnia, confusion, uncontrolled hunger and many more.
In addition the small intestines, which house a major component of digestion called floral bacteria, designed to further break down the foods to make the appropriate nutrients, are outnumbered by 10 bad for every 1 good organism (ideal numbers are 3 good to 1 bad) not only don’t break down proteins to amino acids but they dump toxic waste into our intestines and from there into our blood.
Our children are particularly susceptible to this issue. They load up on low grade carbs, such as cereal, bread and sweets and the effects are devastating. Disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, violence, ADHD and for the first time in history, childhood depression.
If all of this wasn’t bad enough, food selection and gut health are directly related to the body’s production of neurotransmitters. Our nervous system is the information superhighways of our bodies, relaying information necessary for every activity we engaged in. Of the 193 known neurotransmitter in our bodies, Serotonin and Dopamine are the master regulators for life itself. Serotonin, for example, prevents us from being depressed. It is critical for the digestive tract and for restorative sleep, among many other things. Dopamine is responsible for pleasure, rational and logical thinking, motor function, pain regulation. If the gut is not working correctly, proteins cannot be broken down into the building blocks your body requires to create these neurotransmitters.
The emotional events in our lives can cause a partial shutdown of digestion! A sudden shock or an unpleasant event diminishes the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which retards the breakdown of proteins into the appropriate amino acids to create neurotransmitters. The amount of brain matter in the digestive tract, warrants the digestive system being called the “second brain.” Parts of the digestive system can be dramatically affected by emotional events.
If what’s been said has grabbed your attention, here are some things that you can do to support your digestion.
1. Food selection: Make your food selections based on high quality protein sources, including fats, lots of vegetables, and some fermented food.
2. Food allergies: Please be aware and sensitive to food allergies you may have. In our practice, frequently we have taken a child off dairy products, their ear infections have stopped recurring. We recommend allergy tests but also simply eliminating certain foods, such as wheat or dairy, for 3 months then reintroducing them into the diet to observe the effect.
The field of study that connects gut health and behavior is exploding with exciting new discoveries. Excellent health is now a possibility for the vast majority of those who suffer from severe digestive disorders, weight problems, emotional distress, debilitating mental health issues, and degenerative diseases like cancer and arthritis.
About Dr. Ross Stewart- PhD
Dr. Stewart is an internationally known, innovative leader and educator in neurotoxin and biotoxin related illness and its effect on brain and body health. His interests span the entire spectrum of physical and mental health. His unique approach to diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders recognizes that good health is influence and dependent on both the physical and mental-emotional levels.
Dr. Stewart have been in the field of behavioral psychology and nutritional physiology for more than 41 years. He earned a doctorate in psychology from Indiana State University and has worked with many schools, universities and clinics. He is licensed in the state of Texas and has been in private practice in Dallas for more than 30 years. He developed the dynamic Biodata System that allows for rapid diagnosis of personality problems and pinpoints personal issues that contribute to physical disorders that is use internationally by health professionals.
To effectively address the issues his member patients are struggling with Dr. Stewart studied with Dr.Marty Hinz, MD the foremost authority in the field of Neurotransmitter replenishment therapies the cutting edge science of neurology and brain chemistry. Dr. Stewart is an active member of The Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine(ACIM) and Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) which educate health professionals on an integrative, functional approach to healthcare. He has written dozens of articles and been interviewed extensively in the media over the past 10 years.
Dr. Stewart is a strong advocate for natural, non-drug alternatives to prescription medications. His expertise in neuropsychology, physiology and clinical nutrition, allows him to effectively address symptoms and underlying causes of health conditions such as Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Depression, BiPolar, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological dysfunctions.
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