by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
If you are reading this article, of course your brain is functioning. I guess the better question to ask is, is your brain functioning optimally? If you are living with a health issue, that answer is more than likely a big fat no.
For those that do not understand our focus here at Depke Wellness let me first review some core understandings. First of all, your brain and your gut is truly one system and not two different systems. 90% of your brain function goes straight down the Vagus nerve through the spinal column and into the nervous system tissue in the gut. This will then make its way back up through the spinal column, again via the Vagus nerve and back to the brain. With this said, if you have a brain issue you have a gut issue and often when you have a symptom in one the problem may actually be based in the other.
It is very common for clients at Depke Wellness to be living with some type of gut challenge that is leading to symptoms of poor health and happiness. But with what is mentioned above, does this mean that the problem is truly in the gut? That answer is of course no.
It is often very important to address challenges in your gut such as food intolerance, pathogens and leaky gut as examples but often this is not the only issue. This is especially true if you have been working on gut issues for long durations of time, yet still suffering with similar or sometimes that exact symptoms.
With that said, what is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing while expecting different results of course. Unfortunately I see this all the time with individuals working on long term chronic gut issues. At some point though it is important to look at the brain because this would likely be the issue.
There are many areas that could play a role when you are talking about a poor functioning brain. One area to always look is with overall brain support. This would most significantly be tied into increasing peripheral circulation to enhance of course brain circulation. Once circulation is increased you want to be sure to have the ability to provide optimal nutrients and oxygen to the brain. This would be assisted by omega 3 fatty acids as well as the DHA component of your omega 3 fatty acid. Eating more wild caught cold water seafood, grass fed meat, ground flax, avocados and olives are simple examples of good fat for your brain. Increasing oxygenation by regular use of deep breathing will also make a positive impact for you.
Another area to look at is stress levels. Stress has an accumulative affect on the brain and is a must to address. While stress is very real for all of us, the key is how we perceive this stress as well as how we respond to stressors in our lives. Deep breathing on a regular basis in and by itself will have a significant affect on reducing your stress levels. While there are other areas to assist on this level, this is a subject for another article another time.
Another area that is significantly affecting your brain health is your blood sugar regulation and insulin levels. Basic levels to address this is to consume foods with low glycemic levels, address your adrenal function, get some exercise and reduce your stress levels as mentioned above. Most people understand the food and exercise component of blood sugar and insulin but do not "get" the adrenal and stress impact of this. Understand that when you are stressed, this creates and adrenal reaction and puts your body into a fight or flee situation. The crisis whether a true life and death or a perceived life or death, has the same result on your blood sugar. It skyrockets! This is due to the fact that when your body is in a fight or flee, the body is flooded with sugar to assist with the situation. Since most of us are not fighting or fleeing, we are left with this unhealthy high levels of blood sugar and increased insulin attempting to deal with this situation.
Another area to look at is neurotransmitters. Interestingly enough, when I first learned about neurotransmitters years ago, I was told to use this only in extreme cases. Even more interesting than this is it was my understanding to not move into this basically because it works to well and almost too easy. When improvement comes quick and easy, often people will not address the underlying foundational issues and lifestyle changes that are necessary to continue to maintain optimal health for long durations. Taking supplements to simply address neurotransmitter imbalances is not the only issue, but as mentioned above, this can be a huge benefit for individuals with these issues.
When talking about neurotransmitters, I have what I refer to my 1A and 1B as well as my 2A and 2B. The 1A&B are serotonin and dopamine. Most experts will agree that if you can balance these two neurotransmitters, everything else will balance itself. I do also look at my 2A & B though which I consider to be GABA and Acetylcholine. Looking at how your body is reacting to the lack of balance of any of these four is of utmost importance. Understand though that it is not as easy as simply taking these in supplement forms. If your are taking supplements to assist with neurotransmitters without an understood deficiency, you could actually be creating deeper issues for yourself.
Another area to consider is the fact that neurotransmitter balance is not what we could consider cut and dry. There is often some level of experimentation with supplementation and may take some time to find that balance correct for each individual. Due to the fact that both taking too little or too much can be an issue, I never recommend this without guidance of a natural health practitioner that understands neurotransmitter function. What I will share though is that wow, when you get this right, you would be very happy that you did.
Remember though, that you have to look at everything that is addressed in this article. Put this all together and you will now only find yourself with a functioning brain but more importantly, an optimal functioning brain. It is more than worth it!
More on neurotransmitters in upcoming articles...