Here's Part 2 of the Gut-Brain series.
I saw an Alice in Wonderland meme a few weeks ago and thought it à propos for this article.
Alice believed food could solve her problems. The meme seems to poke fun at the human foible of grabbing the Doritos or ice-cream to feel better.
Break students and grads know self-sabotage, self-harm, and self-medication, are acting out a source belief pattern.
And, yes, we know cookies are another form of self-medication. And that the cookie or other forms of poor nutrition, are not only causes of physical ailments but also causes of mental ailments. Even one cookie, one piece of bread, one Dorito, could be destabilizing our gut-brain and then our head-brain.
But what if Alice has the right idea? Perhaps eating healthy could help solve one’s problems? As we discussed last week, healthy eating and a balanced gut biome is certainly a piece of the mental health puzzle.
On the positive side, research verifies that probiotics (bacteria added to the microbiome) were strongly associated with a significant reduction in depression, stress response, anxiety, and positive brain function.
But I ask: why bother adding probiotics if other foods we are eating are negating the supplements? And if we have leaky gut, shouldn’t we heal that first?
What food do we eat? What’s healthy? What’s safe?
Last week, the blog post - Complete the Puzzle: “Rewire” Your Gut Brain - Part 1 of 2 - talked about the gut-brain axis and its significance to successfully rewiring your brain and protecting against chronic, negative, unconscious brain patterns.
I suggest you read that post but long story short:
Humans have a skull brain and a gut brain. Our two brains communicate across what’s called the gut-brain axis. Both brains influence your physical, mental, and emotional states. Consequently, nutrition has both positive and negative impact on psychological symptoms - like anxiety and depression.
Here are key points:
If your gut microbiome is healthy and balanced, you will not only be well-nourished, but also will be healthier mentally.
If your gut microbiome is imbalanced:
A. You will suffer malnutrition;
B. You risk leaky gut - where pathogens pass into the bloodstream to the brain - where they are not supposed to be!
C. The presence of these pathogens causes an inflammation response (your immune system goes into over-drive); and
D. You will suffer psychological effects like anxiety or depression, clouded thoughts, and so on.
Many of us suffer physical symptoms just to enjoy that piece of bread, the slice of cheese, or bowl of ice cream. It might be digestive discomfort, an expanding waistline, high A1C, or an allergic reaction.
But realizing we are also suffering psychological symptoms inspires change.
Break Method grads rewire the skull-brain. But balancing (rewiring) the gut brain is a crucial piece of puzzle to live an authentic, best life.
Here we are for article two to identify foods good for your gut microbiome and to target foods bad for your gut microbiome. As I have previously mentioned in the last article, I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I will rely on the experts and point you that-a-way.
Foods that damage the gut:
Anything - anything - processed. (I keep saying put down the Doritos.) This includes the obvious fast-food meat blobs, sodas and chips, microwave tray slabs, and one-step meal kits (just add water!). But it also includes homogenized milk - or meat or produce that was raised with hormones. It includes non-organic produce. And check your ingredients on canned or packaged soups, condiments, and jarred vegetables. You’d be surprised the chemicals - or other gut-damaging ingredients just “slip” through.
The idea is to eliminate all chemicals, toxins, additives, and so on, that could harm you or your microbiome.
In this category, we also have alcohol. (Put down the beer!!)
Refined sugars and sugar substitutes. White, brown, light brown - avoid any processed sugar. Obviously, avoid high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrin. But also avoid Stevia and similar ilk. You also want to lessen the amount of dried fruit in your diet.
This is another reason to avoid anything - anything - processed. While on my AIP/Paleo path, hubby and I decided to include bacon in a favorite recipe. Luckily I checked the packaging - We had no idea the third ingredient for that brand of bacon was sugar!
Seeds, nuts, grains, legumes, and some tubers (like white potatoes). This includes rice. And wheat. And rye. Quinoa. Corn. Black beans. Pinto beans. Chickpeas. Pecans. Flax seed. Chia seed… And all their related oils.
Coatings (phytic acid, gallic acid, enzyme inhibitors, saponins, lectins…) on seeds and nuts are there to help dissuade animals from consuming them so they can reproduce (the little seed grows up big and strong!). But those coatings are pathogens or anti-nutrients to animals - including humans. They coat the villi of the human intestine and prevent nutrient absorption.
Phytic acid specifically causes calcium, iron, and zinc deficiencies. Saponins affect the absorption of Vitamins A, E, and lipids (fats). Lectin is particularly nasty as it reduces all nutrient absorption and causes inflammation. Gliadin is one of those sneaky proteins that crosses the blood brain barrier, after making it more permeable (leaky gut), and becomes a neurotoxin in the system.
Dairy. Eggs, butter, cream, milk (no matter the producer - cow, goat…), yogurt, ghee, dairy keifer, cheeses…and (I know…there goes my ice cream.)
Casein, a primary protein in milk, and lactose, a form of sugar in milk, both impact psychological conditions. The research is solid. For example, those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder - and even autism - had a reduction in or elimination of symptoms and episodes when living dairy-free.
Stress also has serious negative impact as it affects the abundance and diversity of gut bacteria. And now we know an imbalanced microbiome creates stress…so it becomes a tragic cycle. Therefore, reduction in stress, as well as proper sleep and significant exercise, are elements of the AIP approach.
In general: Leafy, green veggies - and all the veggies of the rainbow (other than the ones omitted above). Fruit of all kinds. Organ meats, bone broths, grass-fed (pasture raised or wild) beef, pork, and poultry. Seafood! Healthy fats (olive and coconut oil). Probiotic and fermented foods.
Before settling on a lifestyle, you should clean and heal your system. Medical experts and nutritionists recommend strict protocols so an individual can (a) detoxify his or her system, (b) reduce or eliminate inflammation, (c) repair a leaky gut, and (d) restore balance to the microbiome.
Typically, these programs involve three phases:
Elimination. During this phase, all suspect foods are eliminated to deprive the pathogens of a food source and to detoxify the system. As the gut biome heals, so should leaky gut. For this phase, the AIP/Paleo (autoimmune protocol) is highly recommended.
Reintroduction. In this second phase, typically entered 30-90 days after the Elimination phase, suspect foods are tested in small quantities and, if nonreactive, tested in typical servings. The food item is consumed once and then the person waits a few days to confirm the absence of any symptoms. So, for example, on the first reintroduction day, you would have a 1/4 teaspoon of egg yolk. If no reaction after 15 minutes, you try a teaspoon. You continue with these small ingestion steps until you feel safe trying a full serving. Then you wait 3-5 days. You have to give your body time to react to the food item. Yes the reintroduction phase takes some time - but it is far more accurate than food sensitivity tests. You are evaluating how the food item makes you feel today, in real time.
Maintenance. To continue to avoid leaky gut, psychological reactions, and toxicity, the gut microbiome must remain balanced. Effectively, whatever foods you successfully reintroduce into your diet - with no negative symptoms - physical or psychological - can become part of your lifestyle.
The maintenance step is a lifelong commitment. But, hey - we’ve made that commitment when we graduated Break Method. The commitment to hold radical personal, responsibility and use all the tools we master during the course.
This step just expands that commitment to our other brain!
And now that you know… it’s radical, personal responsibility time!
If you’re a Break grad, you will find the lecture The Gut / Brain Axis - Nutrition & Emotional Response in Unit 4: Sustain. If you are currently working through the Break Method units, the content will open once you graduate!
If you're not a Break student yet, this Summer is the time to enroll! The School of Sustainable Self-Mastery.
Or, try a Brain Pattern Assessment to get your Brain Pattern Hypothesis today!