Spring has finally made a shy appearance at my home in Pennsylvania and I couldn't be happier. I am lucky enough to live on a 90 acre CSA Farm and when the first tender greens and radishes start rolling in my thoughts turn towards cleansing my body. After a long, cold winter of heavy comfort foods my digestion craves a make-over.
I know that even a few improvements to my diet will revive body, mind and spirit.
Any of you who know me, know that I'm all about taking a little extra time and attention to support better brain health. Even if you are as sharp as a whip, doesn't it make sense to take steps to keep everything upstairs in good working order?
Now let's take a look at Step Two in our Spring Cleanse: Repair.
We don’t usually equate a healthy gut lining with happiness, but studies now indicate that a poor diet is a risk factor for depression and a persistent leaky gut can undermine clear thinking and give rise to brain fog.
Early signs of impaired brain function include digestive issues, such as chronic constipation, diarrhea, or difficulty swallowing. The brain communicates with the gut and vice-versa. Healthy balance in our autonomic nervous system and pathways that run through our brainstem should result in a resting and digesting state 90% of the time. This means that our nervous system should be predominantly focused on the massive task of breaking down and assimilating nutrients, rather than dealing with emergencies that require the body to shift its energy towards fight or flight and stress management.
Factors that impair healthy digestion and lead to a condition called leaky gut, include:
- Chronic inflammation, from injury such as head trauma, autoimmune disease or chronic infection.
- Imbalance and lack of diversity in the gut microflora.
- Repeat doses of antibiotics.
- Anti-inflammatory meds such as NSAIDs or steroids such as prednisone.
- Chronic stress.
- Hormonal imbalance which can raise inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines and prostaglandins.
- Over-exposure to gluten.
Gluten, along with the first six factors listed above, is now known to interfere with the integrity of the gut lining. Studies have shown that disruption to the tight junctions, the proteins that hold the intestinal cells together, occurs after eating gluten even in people who are not celiac or gluten sensitive. In other words, gluten increases everybody's intestinal permeability, so that intestinal bacteria, pathogens and partially digested food is more likely to cross the bloodstream and create inflammation. Chronic, low grade inflammation affects the brain giving rise to foggy thinking and sluggish memory.
For some people, adhering to a gluten-free diet can revitalize energy and healthier cognition. For anyone taking a break from gluten periodically can be a gentle way to reduce inflammation and boost intestinal repair.
Did you miss Part 1 of this series? Read it here and download Clear the Mental Clutter with an Easy Spring Cleanse.
Ready to get started with your own personal cleanse? Download Clear the Mental Clutter, a free guide to the first steps you can take to better brain health!
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