Do you have a combination of weight, gut and sleep problems? If you have, you might not know how they are connected and how a new approach to eating could help.
Your gut and brain are intimately connected as I have discussed in ‘The Brain -Gut Connection‘. Many neurotransmitters are manufactured in the gut with Probiotic bacteria playing a crucial role. If the balance of bacteria in your gut is not right then levels of neurotransmitters like Tryptophan, Serotonin, and GABA that are produced can cause everything from brain fog and insomnia to ADHD and Epilepsy.
These good gut bacteria thrive on fibre in the diet, especially non-soluble fibre which is often lacking in today’s highly processed diets. Having the right balance of high fibre, good bacteria and balanced blood sugar go hand in hand and therefore can be very important factors in controlling weight. Eating a diet with plenty of fibre and good fats also slows the digestive system and making you feel full for longer, happier and mentally sharper.
Another very important substance in the gut that is produced by good probiotic bacteria and fibre is called Butyrate. It is a short chain fatty acid that is also important for maintaining the cells that line the colon as without Butyrate for energy the colon cells digest themselves. Butyrate is essential for controlling inflammation in the colon and can be preventative and therapeutic in the case of inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. Butyrate can also prevent and reverse the storage of fat in cells. It can also increase energy by increasing the function of the mitochondria and increase insulin sensitivity up to 300% therefore having a potential to treat Metabolic Syndrome. For more information go to wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk and also thehomeschooldoctor.com for in-depth Butyrate info.
The picture at he head of this blog is of a healthy, home-made potato salad that has the ability to help create Butyrate in your colon. Cooked and cooled potatoes are a good source of non-soluble (or resistant) fibre and because most of the carbohydrate contained in the potato has been changed to a fibre that cannot be absorbed into the body and used for energy it is a better way of eating potatoes for diabetics or those trying to lose some weight. When you look at the mayonnaise and the suggestion of adding avocado you might imagine calories going off the charts but as long as it is made with good fats they will help your body and your metabolism and will be used by your gut and your brain and not stored as fat cells! If you want to read more about this there is an excellent blog at freetheanimal.com
Healthy Potato Salad
Small potatoes cooked with their skins on and cooled then chopped into smaller pieces
A good bought or home- made Olive oil mayonnaise that contains no dairy or trans-fats.
finely chopped onion, red or white
chopped chives or other herb
some Celtic sea salt and black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients carefully and then chill in the fridge.
You can add a chopped avocado just before you are going to eat. Serve with salmon, tuna, or cold meat and a salad.
Other foods that contain good quantities of non-soluble fibre and foods that support gut health are Sweet potatoes, yams, and other vegetables, fruit and berries, eggs, good quality unprocessed meat and fish, some rice (preferably wild or brown) but parboiling and cooling quickly and then finishing the cooking later also increases the resistant starch or fibre.
There is another important bit of information that is linked to this topic. In people who have had an unresolved gut problem that has led to a Leaky Gut and further health problems like ADHD, Fibromyalgia, Insomnia, migraines, mental health issues relating to over-activity of the brain – bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. These conditions all involve diseased neurons and glial cells that have been affected by mal-absorption of nutrients and direct harm from lectins entering the bloodstream and therefore difficulty dealing with Glutamate and Aspartate. These act as excitotoxins to the nerve and brain cells and are found in gluten containing grains, corn, dairy, soy and other beans, nuts and seeds, MSG and the artificial sweetener Aspartame (NutraSweet). If you would like to know more about the diet that specifically targets Glutamate and Aspartate then click the G.A.R.D. diet.
As you can see if you have read other articles on my website, Leaky Gut and an inadequate Microbiome (the bacteria that reside in our gut) have a profound effect on our mental and physical health. If other sugar binding proteins, like Lectins from beans, grains and dairy or gram-negative bacteria(LPS) that normally live within the gut get through the gut barrier into the blood they cause a violent inflammatory response which can show up in skin, joints, thyroid, Pancreas etc. If this is the case then a full elimination diet may be needed initially even cutting out gluten free grain substitutes like quinoa, tapioca, millet, sorghum etc. legumes/beans, always Soy, and sometimes even the nightshade family – potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine as in the Auto-immune Paleo Diet. Only try re-introducing these foods gradually, one at a time, after symptoms have reversed and closely monitoring for any return of inflammation.
I have been through the Elimination diet and gained almost immediate relief from stiffness and inflamed joints and gut problems but once I introduced some gluten free grains, gluten free beer and plenty of nuts and seeds I found that my insomnia returned as well as a hyperactive, over-thinking brain. Having read up on the G.A.R.D. diet and about Butyrate I have adjusted my diet and am improving already.
Glutamate vs Glutamine and GABA
Glutamate is also known as Glutamic Acid and is called a non-essential amino acid that is taken up by the body to help build proteins and is only helpful as a supplement to people who don’t have enough protein. It is the most abundant stimulating neurotransmitter in the body normally balanced by GABA, but too much can cause toxicity and damage or destroy neurons.
Glutamine should be one of the most abundant amino acids made in the body that is needed for the normal function of the digestive tract, the immune system and through its role in maintaining GABA levels it helps normal brain function. In cases of ill-health, chronic stress, infections or over exercising etc. the body may not make enough and supplementing can help these systems recover. it is commonly used to help heal Leaky Gut.
GABA – (Gamma aminobutyric acid) acts to calm the nervous system, aid sleep and prevent muscle spasms and epilepsy. It needs Vitamin B6 to work.
You can also improve the functioning of your gut neurotransmitters by taking a 6 day course of Elixa Probiotics.