Healing the Gut to Heal the Brain, part 2
May 3rd, 2018 by admin
This article is part 2/2, of a 2-part post, as a featured guest clinician for Albuquerque Brain Training’s Facebook Group, Brain Boss. To start at the beginning (although there is some recap here) see Part 1.
In the world of Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition, we know that addressing gut health is THE key to taming inflammation, no matter where it’s focused in the body, including the brain. That’s partly because 70 to 80% of immune tissue is housed in the gut. This means that if there’s inflammation in the gut, the immune system becomes activated. Because of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, the bi-directional communication between the gut microbiotia, enteric (gut) nervious system, and central nervous system, inflammation in the gut means inflammation in the brain, or in other words, a leaky gut = a leaky brain; therefore, in order to heal a leaky brain (ie., improve and/or resolve neuro-cognitive symptoms), our best shot is not to just chock cognitive symptoms like brain fog, mood swings, anxiety, forgetfulness, etc., up to getting old or not feeling well–it’s to focus on healing the gut.
The gut is the root of all health, it’s true. But what causes gut health to go awry in the first place??
We can initially trace gut inflammation back to an imbalance of the microbes living in the gut. Our microbes,*when in proper balance*, educate our immune system to be tolerant of our own tissues and to foods, and to be generally calm and non-reactive. However, when an insult occurs that immediately creates a shift in microbial balance to favor the overgrowth of potentially pathogenic microbes (these are normal inhabitants of the gut and are kept in check by our commensal/beneficial microbes), these microbes send messages to the immune system that put it into a state of defense/attack. Suddenly the foods we eat, along with our own tissues, are now all suspect. The entire system begins to self-destruct over time, although sometimes quite rapidly. Inflammatory chemical messengers are pumped out that cause inflammation in the gut, leading to a “leaky gut” and from there, the fires spread and become system-wide, as well as target specific organs, including the brain. Simultaneously, neurotransmitter balance is disrupted and tolerance to normal life circumstances is diminished.
So what kind of insult can cause said shift in the gut microbes that leads to all of this inflammatory chaos?
Now, this can be physical stress, as with a physical trauma like an accident, surgery, infection, or antibiotic administration (yes, I view that as a trauma to the gut), as well as from over-exercising or high-level athletic training and competing.
The other form of stress that is highly pervasive and impacts all of us, regardless of whether or not we’ve ever been in a serious accident, had a major surgery, had antibiotics, or are a high-level athlete or over-exerciser, is….
Emotional stress is the result of feeling and believing our thoughts about ourselves in relation to something that has occurred. It isn’t always just the result of our thoughts about something that is happening now or even recently. Emotional stress is often sourced from our memories of past trauma and emotional insults that we continually and habitually (ie., unconsciously) replay and subject ourselves to. In fact, when we are not conscious of our thinking, we tend to see everything and everyone–even the future– through the lens of past hurt and trauma. While the actions against us were not ok, the reality is, they are in the past/not really here anymore; but they sure can feel like they are, when we are fixated on our thoughts about them.
What we know about the gut-brain axis is, the moment you feel acute emotional stress, or more accurately, believe your fear-based thoughts about someone or something, your gut microbes make that inflammatory shift that leads to leaky gut and inflammation of the Central Nervous System, which causes neurotransmitter imbalances. The imbalances lead to disturbances in mood and cognitive function, along with decreased tolerance to life circumstances. And of course, these disturbances lead to more limiting thoughts and beliefs and more or continued inflammation in the gut. It’s a solid feedback loop that can be tricky to interrupt.
A lot of the research on the microbiota-gut-brain axis looks at the positive effect of administering probiotics, prebiotics, fish oil, antioxidants, etc. (all things that help improve gut health) on the brain and emotional wellbeing. While we know that this is helpful, what I have not yet been able to find in the research, is an exploration of how the gut-brain axis is balanced by interrupting the thought patterns that are driving the inflammatory process.
We have research that confirms the physiological effects of emotional stress on the gut and the microbiota-gut-brain-axis.
We know that emotional stress (the believed thought) is a major trigger of the inflammatory cascade, but I am finding it difficult to track down research on how doing our inner work positively impacts gut, and subsequently, brain health, by restoring balance to the microbiota-gut-brain-axis. Perhaps this is because we are so used to recommending a pill, supplement, herb, or specific therapy or procedure to cure our ails, even those of us in Functional and Integrative medicine. The outside-in method of treating dis-ease is very prevalent across all forms of modern medicine.
I have seen and experienced the raising of consciousness to be an amazing tool in healing the gut. In my experience as a clinician, those who commit to the work of expanding consciousness have the best and quickest results in healing the gut, brain, body, and of course, the mind. Those who resist doing the inner work of experiencing thoughts and memories that are coming up to be healed, tend to have a slower and more difficult time healing.
Now, you might be wondering, what does “expanding consciousness” mean or look like? We’ll get to that.
You may also be wondering how in the world you’re supposed to reduce emotional stress when you live in a world where crazy things happen and are surrounded by other human beings who are stressed. It can seem really hard, given all of life’s circumstances and interactions–as if the only solution is to isolate yourself away from it all.
But that’s not the answer, because no matter where you go in the world or who you are with, your thoughts will always be with you.
If you want to heal your gut (and brain), whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for years without fully resolving your gut-related issues (ie., autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Sjogren’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Raynaud’s, Psoriasis, or skin conditions like eczema), as well as heal neuro-cognitive symptoms or a condition, you must start getting conscious of how your experience is being created from moment to moment and releasing the thoughts that are driving the inflammatory process for you.
The body simply reflects the quality of your state of mind.
Anytime we are attributing our feelings to something that is happening or that happened outside of us, like what someone said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, we are not understanding how life actually works. This is an “outside-in misunderstanding” of how our moment to moment experience is created.
How experience (and stress) is actually created
How it actually works is that we are only ever feeling our “right now” thinking. In other words, stress/struggle is an inside job.
It’s not what your parents did or didn’t do, or what your spouse said or didn’t say. It’s what you think about all of it that you are feeling in the moment. Anytime you are feeling upset, lonely, rejected, sad, jealous, angry, and heck, even happy, for that matter, you’re feeling your thinking. No person, place, or thing can make you feel any certain way. Only the thoughts and judgments that you are believing to be true (and therefore, feeling and experiencing as your reality) in the moment can do that, and you have the power to choose the thoughts that will make you feel good, rather than stressed.
This is a moment to moment practice.
I call it meditation 2.0–a living, breathing, walking, off-the-cushion 24/7 meditation, in which the process basically is to:
1.) Recognize that anytime your peace is disturbed, you are believing your current fear-based thoughts to be more than what they are–just thoughts.
2.) Once you recognize that your “right now” feeling is only ever coming from your “right now” thinking, you can step back and witness your thoughts (Look at them vs. through them. Experience them without believing them.). If you don’t realize this, you’ll stay stuck in your story of stress. You won’t feel relief. In fact, if you don’t feel relief, you are either still believing the thought, or you’ve hit another layer/representation of it that you are unconsciously believing. The trick is to get conscious and notice ALL of your feelings of discord as unrecognized, BELIEVED thought.
3.) From here, provided that you understand that your current feelings are a reflection of the thoughts you are holding in mind, you get to evaluate whether or not these thoughts are serving you. You also get to ask yourself if you’d rather be free, or continue to hold onto these thoughts that are causing your feelings of stress and struggle. And ultimately, you get to choose to forgive/release the thought with loving kindness (because it’s all innocent misperception) and choose again.
It is amazing what takes place in the way of physical healing when we remove the blocks to Love (limiting, fear-based thoughts and belief systems).
In my experience, both AS a Transformative Coach who helps my clients to wake up to the power of thought in these moments of stress and interrupt the inflammatory cascade in the gut and brain, and as someone who HAS a Transformative Coach to wake me up to the power of thought when I’m caught up in believing my own thought-generated stress story of lack, limitation, rejection, illness, past trauma, victimhood, separation, inflammation, etc., I will say this:
Having an objective person to regularly, lovingly, and skillfully hold transformative space for you is a vital aspect of the healing process, both emotional and physical–including gut and brain healing, because the inflammatory cascade begins the moment the fear-based thought is believed. It is interrupted the moment we decide to surrender our limited perceptions to one that is far greater and much more imaginative than our own.
Here’s a short video from my mentor and coach, Joshua Benavides, founder of the Transformative Coach Institute (TCI). Here, he eloquently explains what Transformative Coaching is, in the way that it is understood and conveyed via TCI.
I hold transformative space for my clients, who are mostly women struggling with gut-related chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions (who almost always struggle with cognitive symptoms, due to the gut-brain connection), and who realize that, not only do they need a root cause approach to healing themselves physically (which I help them with via Functional Medicine Nutrition and in tandem with other integrative practitioners and therapists), but also that their emotions and stress levels are hindering the progress they could be seeing from all of the great changes they have been making or ever will make.
If you are serious about doing the work of taking a whole self, personalized root cause approach to healing your body, which MUST include noticing, welcoming, and ultimately surrendering your limiting beliefs and thought patterns, in order to access your full healing potential, see my website, read it thoroughly, and fill out a client application.
Why a client application? Because not everyone is ready or a good fit for this type of work. If you are, I’m excited to talk with you. If you’re not, I trust that you what you need WILL find you, and when it does, you’ll know it. Just set the intention to be available to it. That said, please do not fill out a client application unless you are fully ready to do the work of healing on all levels.
I hope this serves you or someone you love. Scroll down a little further to see how you can become a Transformative Coach. The world needs more people who can lovingly and skillfully hold space for others to raise their consciousness and heal completely.
Here’s to wellness beyond the status quo.
Blessings and Be Well,
Angie King-Nosseir MS, RDN, LD
Functional Medicine Nutritionist & Transformative Coach
Gourmet Healer, LLC
Want to become a Transformative Coach like me?
Check out Transformative Coach Institute, where I got my certification,as a part of the first (beta) group to go through. It was a true embodiment process that completely transformed my relationship to myself and others. It also transformed me as Coach, Functional Nutritionist, and entrepreneur.
So if you’re considering the program to be trained and certified in the art and science of deep, soulful Transformative Coaching…
Or learn more about the training by visiting: