Written by Dr Catherine (Von Thomann) MacInnes, Chiropractic & Health Care Centre (LRCC), Lane Cove Sydney NSW Australia – ph. 02 – 94183930
Do you have any of these? Fatigue, constipation, recurring skin conditions, forget where you left your keys, Intolerance to foods, anxiety, bloating in the gut, brain fog, slower recall than you used to, forgetting what you were saying sometimes, slower reflexes, Irritable bowel syndrome, recurring fungal infections on your toe nails, an autoimmune condition, depression, easily irritated, chronic joint pain or diabetes.
Even one from this list can mean that your brain health is not optimal and are signs of an impaired gut-brain axis.
One of the earliest signs of a poorly functioning brain is poor digestion. Gut and brain inflammation don’t cause pain. Intestinal inflammation causes gut distention (bloating) while brain inflammation slows the transmission of information from one neuron (impulse conducting cell) to another, resulting in brain fog. Scientists are now calling the gut the 2nd brain. Hormones are made in the gut, and those feel good neurotransmitters are made here. I shall delve into this a little deeper later on.
Below is an excerpt from an article titled “How to not spend the last 10 years of your life in a diaper and a wheelchair” by Dr Chris Kresser, an American Functional Medical Doctor.
“We associate the symptoms of neurodegeneration with normal aging. We see advertisements for Depends diapers, nursing homes, medications for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and laxatives all around us. Expressions like “having a senior moment” are part of the vernacular, and we’re often quick to explain loss of brain or physiological function as “just getting older”. We assume that the aches, pains and frustrating and sometimes embarrassing decline in quality of life we experience as we age is “normal”, because we see others around us going through the same changes.
WHAT IS COMMON IS NOT NECESSARILY NORMAL. Studies that have looked only at the healthiest elderly people find minimal cognitive decline even into the ninth decade. The data suggests that significant cognitive decline is not an inevitable consequence of advanced age. Yet more than 4 million Americans have dementia today and that number is projected to grow to 14 million in the next 50 years. 1 in 100 Americans over the age of 60 have full-blown Parkinson’s disease, and a greater number has “Parkinsonian-like” symptoms (early Parkinson’s).” CHRIS KRESSER.
Following are the mechanisms that increase the risk of activating brain inflammation –
Diabetes and high-carb diets, lack of oxygen from poor circulation, lack of exercise, chronic stress response, heart failure, lung disorder, anemia, previous head trauma, autoimmune reaction, dietary gluten for those are gluten intolerant, low brain antioxidant status, alcohol and drug abuse, environmental pollutants; systemic inflammation and inflammatory bowel conditions.
FATIGUE, DEPRESSION, AND GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS Not all brain-based problems come down to Alzheimer’s, autism, or Parkinsons. In fact, three of the more common outcomes of brain degeneration problems are fatigue, depression, and gastrointestinal problems, though they are rarely treated as such.
Gluten for example: The hybridization (combining different varieties) and deamidation (degradation of important proteins) of grains and the onset of gluten-related diseases has aroused much suspicion about the safety of “new wheat”. In other words, the wheat that your great grand parents ate is not what you eat now. Practitioners are continuously astonished by the profound therapeutic effect of a strict gluten diet. Gluten sensitivity has been shown to be a significant trigger in psychiatric disorders, movement disorders, ataxia (can’t walk properly), multiple sclerosis, migraines, hearing loss, dementia, restless leg syndrome and disorders in virtually almost every part of the nervous system.
Case Example: “I recently had a patient diagnosed with MS come into my office. Her MRI showed multiple lesions in the brain and she had neurological symptoms. She complained of incontinence, brain fog, balance problems, numbness, and tingling. She was on multiple drug therapies to counteract the effects of MS. On examination, it was evident she was dealing with inflammation that led to her signs and symptoms of MS. Her treatment plan consisted of an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce any food allergies. Neurological rehabilitative exercises were given to improve balance. We determined gluten was the major source of inflammation flaring the symptoms. She also found sugar, dyes, and preservatives impacted her health. After we removed inflammatory foods from her diet and supported proper brain function, she began feeling better. A follow-up MRI six months later showed many lesions had resolved and only a few remained. Her neurological signs and symptoms were reduced and she stated improvement in her overall life, affecting her life personally and professionally. She was able to continue writing a paper that later advanced her within her career.” Dr Shane Steadman DC, DACNB, DCBCN” from the book “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” by Datis Kharrazian.
Parasites, Viruses, Bacteria, Fungus, Toxic Chemicals, Toxic Metals, Radiation, Food Allergies or Intolerances are included under the Toxicity umbrella. We are surrounded by chemicals radiation and metals (think of all the products most people have in their homes and in their food sources) and many of us are carrying unnecessary parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungal overgrowth. I was harbouring two different parasites, as well as having strep in my gut and an overgrowth of lactobacillus and bifidus and an under-growth of another, (all not good) as well as remnant viruses. As well as causing gut inflammation, any of these can effect gene expression and methylation.
Methylation happens in every cell and every organ in our body and happens a billion times per second and as you can imagine, anything that happens that often is crucial to our survival. Simply explained, good methylation creates energy (ATP), produces your major anti-oxidant/detoxifier, protects the heart, produces hormones (thyroid and adrenals for example), produces mood hormones and creates a proper sleep cycle. Methylation in particular affects the brain and the production of neurotransmitters (a small messenger chemical).
Hormone imbalances and blood sugar handling can affect receptor site uptake of these neurotransmitters that can create Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Autism, and ADHD for example. Here is the big problem. 40-60% of the population has a gene mutation called MTHFR that causes a 40-90% reduction in methylation. I have one type operating at 40% reduction. There is, however, an easy back door solution to improving methylation. Mine is taking activated Vitamin B9 and Methyl B12. Activated because my body, due to the gene mutation, cannot effectively convert folic acid/folate from food. Supplementation with activated vitamins is therefore essential for me. My food is not enough. The consequences for me is that I wasn’t breaking down oestrogen properly (remember I mentioned methylation is important for one of the body’s major detoxifiers) so one of my levels was toxically high and, if left unchecked, could have potentially led to breast cancer. My symptoms were: I was tired and constipated, couldn’t sleep well and had mild anxiety. Quite common symptoms really when you think about it. Remember, common is not normal.
You might have heard of a fit young person who dies from a heart attack during a small fun run. This can be a methylation issue. Repeated miscarriages can be a methylation issue. A lack of detoxification can lead to a higher susceptibility to toxic overload and histamine intolerance. Other results of ineffective methylation are chronic fatigue and infertility. Methylation regulates gene expression. This is a big statement and a whole other topic. In summary, methylation issues are genetic or environmental. I believe my issues are both due to parasites and bacterial overgrowth (a leaky gut/ an unhealthy gut biome) and the fact that I tested as having a heterozygous mutation (it came from one parent).
It is important to know that predisposing factors that potentially can lead to you having problems with methylation depends on all environmental factors and probably the interaction of other gene mutations. Methylation mutations are not like mutations in genes that cause things like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell Anaemia. I have attached the below website page for methylation explained. It is American so not all tests mentioned are valid here in Australia. It is something that you should consider having checked if you have a mood disorder, even mild anxiety and there is a family history of heart disease. It is a simple blood test. I have already sent a number of my patients for this.
Before we proceed to listing the neurotransmitters, another important mutation that can effect methylation should be mentioned as it too can have a huge effect on the neurotransmitters that cause mood disorders. This one is Pyrrole Disorder or Mauve Factor. Unfortunately they say this one is very common. Some studies say that 85% of schizophrenics have pyrrole disorder. Other symptoms of pyrrole can be Asperger’s, Post Natal Depression, Tourette’s Syndrome, Bi-polar Disorder, Autism, Panic Attacks, Manic Depression, Substance Abuse, and less intense symptoms of Constipation, Acne, early greying of hair, motion sickness, cold hands and feet plus many more. Click on the link below to read more.
The reason it can cause so many symptoms is that it depletes the body of active Vitamin B6 and zinc. You need active Vitamin B6 and Zinc for many enzyme conversions in the methylation pathway. And yes, I have pyrrole disorder. I had white spots on my finger -nails and I was constantly anaemic no matter how much red meat I ate (here is the fatigue issue falling into the picture and therefore brain health) and no, I wasn’t about to wield an axe if someone angered me. I did, however, have cold hands and feet! So, yes outwardly, symptoms can also be minimal. Interestingly, you need B6 and zinc to create stomach acid (most people have low not high as inappropriately treated by main stream medicine) so I wasn’t absorbing protein (iron) and calcium (Vitamin D issues) well which would have led to more inopportune bugs into my system. Pyrrole can be brought on by stress. It is tested through urine and only certain labs perform it.
Now for the Neurotransmitters: See if you can recognize any symptoms in anyone you know and love. The big issue with neurotransmitters is whether the precursors of these neurotransmitters make it into the brain and not that the diet is deficient in protein or amino acids that is required to produce them (as there is often an abundance of these). Think again of methylation and gut health.
Serotonin: Depression, loss of pleasure in hobbies, feelings of inner rage and anger, not enjoying favourite foods, friendships or relationships, unable to fall into a deep restful sleep and are therefore often chronically tired. Serotonin is very much affected by blood sugar imbalances, hormone imbalances and diet. Symptoms also associated can be irritable bowel, migraines, tinnitus, OCD, shyness, nervousness and the inability to think clearly. Many serotonin-deficient people can have good jobs and finances, and happy families, yet they are unhappy and feel guilty about it. Symptoms are often worse in winter (less light).Nutrients that are most affective in improving serotonin response are methylation nutrients.
GABA: Anxiety or feeling anxious, feelings of dread, restless mind and difficulty turning your mind off, worry about things that you never had thought of, feelings of panic, easily overwhelmed, knot in the stomach, focus issues as a lot is going on. Anaemia (iron), blood sugar imbalances, toxicity often gluten and chemicals impact this neurotransmitter greatly. Examples of helpful support are passionflower and valerian.
Acetylcholine: Poor verbal memory (forgetting words for example), difficulty in calculating numbers, spatial orientation problems, respond slowly and “senior moments”. Dementia first affects the hippocampus, the area in the brain rich in acetylcholine receptors. Acetylcholine is detrimentally affected by a low fat diet, and sugar imbalances. Prior to sitting exams, this neurotransmitter is a good one to support nutritionally.
Dopamine: Lose temper for minor reasons and inability to handle stress well. Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness; have a lack of concern for others, including your family. Experience loss of libido and have difficulty starting or finishing tasks with little or no motivation to do so. Can experience learning disorders. Comments can be made like “my partner made me come for this appointment”. Dopamine is most commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. Some Parkinson drugs enhance dopamine activity which enhances pleasure-producing effects including addictions. People who have addictive behaviors could have overactive dopamine issues and no association with Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is greatly affected by hormone imbalances, blood sugar imbalances, liver issues, iron deficiency (gut issues including parasites and gluten, thyroid issues, and low stomach acid), oxygen (smoking, stress, fungal nail growth, cold hands and feet, thyroid issues), methylation nutrients.
Please be aware that some peoples’ brain health is very fragile and some nutrient supplementation can have a negative effect causing an over firing of neurons. Taking them without the help and knowledge from a health care practitioner could cause a problem. This is particularly true for Acetylcholine.
Although the brain gradually loses neurons (impulse conducting cell) and synapses, (a region where nerve impulses are transmitted and received) as we age, we can keep it in peak function by developing healthy and abundant synaptic function.
How to make sure you acquire better brain health
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet, clean up your gut, eat clean and unprocessed foods, decrease sugar including fruit consumption, decrease chemicals around you and toxic metals (cooking ware and fluoride…toxin chemicals and metals disrupt enzyme conversions in methylation and energy production pathways), exercise, meditate to manage stress, sleep more, remove blue light at night, get a couple of simple gene mutations tested, test for hormonal imbalances including adrenals, thyroid and oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, Iron studies, support brain health with some nutrients and take up something new for brain exercise creating new neural pathways.
For those of you who are unsure about fluoride – it is not meant to be ingested e.g. in our water supply versus toothpaste.
Norman Doidge’s books are a great place to learn about creating new neural pathways even after damage to the brain from stroke. I might add that one of his treatments for stroke recovery uses low level laser, the most amazing equipment for cell recovery – and it is just light! I am very excited to have this in my practice.
Redesign My Brain Series seen on ABC TV is a good guide for brain exercise
Chiropractic Applied Kinesiology is a great place to start for testing. Isode testing uses vials with the “energy” of a substance, (yes, there is science behind this) be it nutritional or toxic, to help us determine what we need to address to improve our health. Correct dose levels of nutrients can be determined individually. Other helpful sources would be Functional or Integrative Medical Doctors who uses herbs to treat the gut as opposed to antibiotics.
(Catherine’s Newsletter was written in April 2015 when permission to share it was also given. Catherine is Ashtara’s youngest daughter.)