Everything in your body is connected, from your head to your toes and—more importantly—from your brain to your gut. When something in any of your key organs goes awry, the effects can radiate throughout your entire body. Just ask the host of The Perfect Stool: Understanding and Healing the Gut Microbiome, Certified Health Coach Lindsey Parsons, Ed. D, and Corey Deacon, Functional Medicine Practitioner at naturopathic medicine clinic Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine.
If you’re ready to learn more about the brain-gut connection, join Lindsey and her special guest, Corey, for the latest episode of The Perfect Stool on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
What’s New with The Perfect Stool Podcast?
Did you know that more than 100 trillion microbes call your gut home? These microbes are part of your gut microbiome, a collection of all the bacteria and fungi in your body that is responsible for controlling healthy gastrointestinal function. But the microbiome has a much farther reach—when it becomes unbalanced, its influence can touch the entire body.
Lindsey Parsons created The Perfect Stool: Understanding and Healing the Gut Microbiome to dive into the intricacies of the microbiome. In her podcast, she discusses the microbiome’s influence on digestive health and obesity, as well as cardiovascular health, mental health, autoimmune diseases, and skin conditions. Each episode, Lindsey interviews integrative medicine professionals, patients, and scientists about the gut microbiome, the current state of research, and how you can apply it to your life.
You can find your preferred platform and listen to all episodes on The Perfect Stool website.
The Gut-Brain Connection: A Deep Dive with Corey Deacon
In the latest episode of The Perfect Stool, Lindsey is joined by Neurvana Health co-founder and Medical Director Corey Deacon. During his conversation with Lindsey, Corey took a deep dive into a topic that’s close to his heart—the gut-brain connection.
During the Perfect Stool Podcast, Corey and Lindsey discuss the two connections between the brain and the gut: electrical and chemical.
Electrical Connections — These are physical connections between the brain and the gut in terms of nerve fibers. Specifically, you have a nerve fiber called the vagus nerve that runs down the left side of your neck, underneath your diaphragm, and down into your gut. The vagus nerve regulates your gut motility and the secretion of enzymes, bile acid, stomach acid, and other compounds you need to break down food. Because this connection is electrical, it’s incredibly fast.
Chemical Connections — These are chemical connections between the brain and the gut in terms of hormones, cytokines and other chemical messengers. Microscopic hormones originate in your brain and feed down into the gut, including the chemical messenger vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). Your VIP hormone seals your gut so its contents cannot travel through your gut lining into your bloodstream and immune system. Because this connection is chemical, it moves slower.
So, what do these connections have in common with digestive issues or head injuries? After your brain has been injured, both its electrical and chemical connections can become altered. For instance, a blow to the head or neck can interrupt your hormones and disrupt your vagus nerve, preventing your nerve endings from firing correctly. Your VIP levels may drop significantly, preventing the gut from sealing and causing a condition like leaky gut. Sluggish vagal nerve activity can also cause gastroparesis, a distressing condition of poor gastric motility that causes bloating, abdominal pains, constipation and more.
In order to get to the bottom of what can be causing gut-related conditions, it’s crucial you examine any previous injuries to the head or neck.
How to Monitor Your Gut-Brain Connection
Your gut, brain, and every individual cell in your body is electrochemical, which means without an electrical current or a voltage, the chemicals can’t function. On the chemical side, Neurvana Health utilizes stool and breath testing to monitor your gut-brain connection. But monitoring the electrical side of things can be a bit more difficult. This is where an electrogastrogram (EGG) comes in.
An electrogastrogram is a method of examining the electrical function of your gut. Much like an electroencephalogram (qEEG) monitors the electrical activity of your brain, an EGG allows you to keep a pulse on the electrical function of your gut. When you combine an qEEG with an EGG, you can compare the electrical activity of your brain to the electrical activity of your gut to determine which is affecting the other.
During an EGG, an electrical array is placed over the top of your gut. This network is then connected to an app on your phone, so you can collect data over a 24-hour period. Typically, you keep watch of what you’ve eaten and when you have a bowel movement. From this data, a Neurvana Health practitioner can monitor how your gut is functioning and how things are moving through your gut.
The results might surprise you.
How Brain Health Can Result in Crohn’s Disease and Other Conditions
During an electrogastrogram (EGG), surprising results occur for those with inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe conditions that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. The most common types of IBD include ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease can affect everything in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from your throat or mouth to your colon or anus. Most likely to strike in your small or large intestine, Crohn’s mobilizes your immune system’s white blood cells to attack your healthy tissue. This process dramatically increases inflammation, which can cause ulceration or tissue swelling that restricts your ability to process food, absorb nutrients, and pass stool. Ultimately, Crohn’s patients are left with confusing symptoms of abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea, or unexplained weight loss.
However, something interesting happens when individuals with Crohn’s or another type of IBD conduct an EGG. What you’ll notice is that their EGG is not smooth—their gut is not moving in the correct rhythm. A proper rhythm for the electrical function of your gut is a slow frequency of about .05 hertz. For individuals with Crohn’s, you might find that their frequency is too slow to actually move contents throughout the entire digestive tract. This phenomenon is known as dysmotility or slowed gut motility. Other times the frequency of migratory motor complex (MMC) in the gut goes too slow in some areas and too fast in other areas of the intestine. This creates very odd symptoms and patterns of digestion and bowel movements. This combination pattern is also known as dysmotility.
Bear in mind, you do not need to have a diagnosed concussion or brain injury to experience a disconnect between your brain and your gut, especially if you’ve had multiple hits to the head. It only takes about a tenth of the amount of energy or force to injure your neck as it does to receive a concussion, and both can significantly disrupt your hormones and vagus nerve.
Will You Be Listening?
Corey’s guest episode of The Perfect Stool: Understanding and Healing the Gut Microbiome is going live on Tuesday, January 21. You can listen to the podcast on your favourite platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Stitcher. Be sure to tune in for the tips you need to help restore your gut to perfect health and get to the bottom of any issues with your gut-brain connection.
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