HOME OF THE BRAIN-GUT-HORMONAL-IMMUNE SYSTEM CONNECTION
The body should function like a world-class orchestra that is being directed by a famous maestro --- the Brain. As long as it is all working together, life flows forth like beautiful music. But just like a musician who is playing a wrong part ruins the entire orchestra, body systems that are out of sync with each other throw the entire body into disarray. The once-beautiful symphony can quickly disintegrate into an unlistenable cacophony of noise.
The fact that humans recognize a precision balance within the body is nothing new. It was the Psalmist, David (yes, the same David that killed Goliath), who wrote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made". Whether CREATIONIST OR EVOLUTIONIST, today's highly educated medical community realizes this as well. The problem is that they are all too often asking the wrong questions. For example, it's all too easy to look at a blood test and make a diagnosis of "hypothyroid" (increased blood levels of TSH). The real question though is why? What is it that is causing TSH levels to increase? Restoring health has to be understood in terms of uncovering underlying causes, not just treating (covering) symptoms. Face it, if covering symptoms worked, you wouldn't be reading this post at 3 am.
Yes, modern medicine realizes that the patient above is loosing Thyroid function. But "why" is the fundamental question that seems to remain perpetually unasked. And while it's true that replacing hormones will sometimes restore blood levels of certain hormones to so-called "normal" values, this approach does not address what is causing the gland(s) to malfunction in the first place. The best approach involves attempting to figure out why the gland is malfunctioning, and moving forward from there.
It's easy to prescribe HORMONES, ANTIDEPRESSANTS, PAIN PILLS, MUSCLE RELAXERS, NSAIDS, CORTICOSTEROIDS, and who knows what other kinds of drugs, but are these really addressing the various things that can either suppress or over-excite Endocrine or Immune System function?
What about some of the things that are known to adversely effect the neuro-endocrine system? VIRUSES, MOLD, YEAST, BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH, poor ratios of the various organisms found in your Gut (DYSBIOSIS or PARASITES), AUTOIMMUNITY, ANEMIA, LEAKY GUT SYNDROME, food sensitivities / intolerances (think GLUTEN here), CHEMICAL EXPOSURE, ALUMINUM TOXICITY, HEAVY METALS, HEAD INJURIES, etc, etc, etc........ All these can cause various degrees of Endocrine Dysfunction --- some of them debilitating. If you have dealt with chronic health problems of any sort, you probably realize that many of the things on this list are all but ignored by today's medical establishment. But should they be?
Dr. Aristo Vojdani wrote in the foreword to Dr Datis Kharrazian's "Thyroid Book" that, "The idea that environmental factors, in particular, infectious agents, may cause severe thyroid disorder has been in the literature since the 1940's". Wow! If Drs. Vojdani and Kharazzian are correct in their premise that "environmental factors" and "infectious agents" can in fact cause severe disorders of the body's various Endocrine Glands (including Thyroid), can the vast number of Americans suffering with their vast array of Chronic Conditions ever hope to gain relief and restore health within the confines of the "Medical Box"? In order to answer this question, stand in a public place and simply look around you. Despite untold amounts of public and private monies being poured into the sieve we call "HEALTHCARE"; and despite billions upon billions of dollars being poured into MEDICAL RESEARCH, the answer to this question is painfully obvious.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE INFORMATION IN TODAY'S POST?
I will warn you. The information in today's post will be a shock to many of you. For others, it might provide a small glimmer of hope. But the question remains, what will you do with it? There are several different paths you could follow.
- Some of you will play the "Ostrich Game" and bury your heads in the sand. It's just easier to keep moving in the same old direction. I understand ---- change is far too difficult.
- Some of you will discount what you are reading outright. After all, it's being written by a durn chiroquacktor --- an Ozarker at that!
- Some of you will question your doctor. Great. I tell everyone to question anything and everything that any doctor tells them ---- including me! Just be aware that unless your doctor is actually staying current with the latest cutting edge research, he / she will not likely agree with much of this. That's OK because....
- Some of you will do your own research. Even better! I not only suggest you do this; I provide some excellent resources to get you started. Knowledge is power, and if you want to have any hope of regaining your health, you will make yourself an expert on your particular problem. I truly love patients who research.
- Finally, there is a small group of you who will embark on a journey ---- a journey that will start moving them out of the "Medical Box" --- the box they have been living, floundering, and suffering in for far too long. Tremendous! I applaud their courage! These individuals will soon start to see the singularity of the Nervous System, Endocrine System, Gut, and Immune System. A "singularity" simply means that these all related and intertwined at such a deep level, you cannot always tell where one system ends and the other begins. Thus, the odd name of this Blog Post, Endogut.
DIGESTION & ABSORPTION
ENDOCRINE HORMONES MANUFACTURED IN THE GUT
Unfortunately, this is all too common here in America. Furthermore, your weight is only one of many aspects of your health ---- albeit a visible one --- that will go south as digestion goes south. As you read this post, you will quickly recognize that dysregulation of BLOOD SUGAR. In fact, some of the most cutting-edge research on the planet is now pointing to the fact that Dysglycemia is not only the root of most endocrine / gut problems, it is the root of most health problems period (HERE)!
- SECRETION: Delivery of enzymes, mucus, ions and the like into the lumen (the inside of the tube), and hormones into blood.
- ABSORPTION: Transport of water, ions and nutrients from the lumen, across the epithelium and into blood. This is where INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY occurs.
- MOTILITY: Contractions of smooth muscle in the wall of the tube that crush, mix and propel its contents through the tube that is your Digestive System.
OVERVIEW OF DIGESTION
Digestion is simply the process of food being broken down into small enough particles so that they can be absorbed by the body. Digestion is a somewhat different process for the three types of foods --- proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Don't panic. We are not going to go into a lot of crazy detail here. Just remember a few simple facts. One of the most important is that the products of digestion (Amino Acids, Glucose, and Fatty Acids) are then used by the body as building blocks for everything it makes.
- AMINO ACIDS: Amino Acids build proteins. Things like muscles, collagen, many hormones, neurotransmitters, immune system antibodies, etc, are made of proteins. In fact, proteins are what the majority of the solids inside of your body's cells are made up of. Because of this fact, lots of potential health problems can be either solved or avoided altogether by consuming enough protein --- something that can be not necessarily impossible, but exceedingly difficult to do as a vegan. It takes a lot of very (emphasis on very) strong stomach acid to properly break down proteins.
- GLUCOSE: Glucose is the simple sugar that your body uses to convert into cellular energy in the form of ATP. The Glycemic Index measures the speed at which various carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, as indicated by their "Glycemic Load". You want to eat carbs that are low and slow (namely VEGETABLES). For the record, 25% of your body's entire glucose production is used by the brain.
- FATTY ACIDS & LIPIDS: Fatty acids & Lipids can be broken down into glucose, but are also used to make cell membranes as well as things like nerve sheaths, steroid hormones, CHOLESTEROL, (not the demon it's usually portrayed as) and others. Cell membranes are made up of a lipid bi-layer (a double layer of fatty acids) that is selectively permeable. This means that it lets certain things in the cells while keeping other things out. It is important to remember that TRANS FATS create "stupid cell membranes" --- membranes that are no longer as "selective" as they should be.
How and where does digestion occur?
Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing breaks food into smaller particles so that chemicals and enzymes can begin to work. Enzymes in saliva begin to digest starches, and mucous helps lubricate and hold the chewed food in a clump called a bolus. The tongue then pushes food to back where it can be swallowed. Swallowing is accomplished by reflexes that close the opening to the trachea (the windpipe) so that you don't end up with a cheeseburger and fries in your lungs.
When the food hits the stomach it triggers stretch receptors that tell your lower brainstem (Medulla Oblongata) to begin secreting Gastrin. Gastrin begins mixing with Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) and tells the stomach to start making digestive juices. This mixture is churned by the muscular walls of the stomach into a mixture called chyme. Be aware that HCl is what makes the stomach acidic ---- extremely acidic. As I said earlier, it is virtually impossible to have too much or too strong stomach acid (it happens in people that have a specific kind of brain tumor).
Strong stomach acid does several things (according to Guyton, it should be less than 1 on a pH scale). It's a major line of defense against pathogenic bacteria, viruses, molds, yeasts, parasites, etc. It also converts something called pepsinogen into the chief digestive enzyme for digesting proteins --- pepsin. Be aware that the stomach has a mucous lining that keeps you from getting burned by HCl due to ulcers.
Ulcers are caused by gastric juices and Hydrochloric Acid penetrating the mucous lining of the stomach or duodenum and actually beginning to digest the stomach itself. Although it has been common knowledge to followers of Standard Processes' Royal Lee since the 1920's (HERE), even the medical community has recently been forced to admit that ulcers are actually caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This bacteria cannot live in the extremely acidic environment of the stomach. However, when the acidity of the stomach begins to wain and its pH goes up, the bacteria can take hold and even thrive (HERE or HERE). Once the colony of bacteria is large enough, it takes over portions of the stomach lining, preventing it from secreting mucous, which causes the stomach to become susceptible to the digestive action of pepsin.
Chyme (the slurry of partially digested food) then enters the duodenum --- the first part of the small intestine --- in tiny spurts, through the Pyloric Sphincter. At this point, proteins and carbohydrates are only partially digested and fat digestion has not really started. The pancreas kicks into high gear, producing both Pancreatic Juice & Insulin.
Pancreatic Juice is dumped into the duodenum and neutralizes the acid from the stomach. It contains digestive enzymes (Amylases) that are used to break down starch. Pancreatic Juice also contains the Digestive Enzymes, Trypisn and Chymotrypsin for the digesting of proteins, as well as an enzyme (Lipase) for breaking down fats. The Duodenum is also where the bile that is manufactured in the Liver, but stored in the Gallbladder, is dumped into the system. Bile "emulsifies" fats (creates more surface area by separating large globs into lots of tiny droplets) so that it can mix with water and be acted upon by enzymes.
Side Note: Be aware the if the chyme does not contain strong enough HCl, the Duodenum senses this and does not allow the Pyloric Sphincter Valve to open and let the chyme pass into the Small Intestine. The lack of HCl also prevents the food from fully digesting. Instead it goes through a process called "Puterefaction" (a cross between rotting and fermentation). Because the mash is itself is extremely acidic, as it is churned by the stomach (reflux) it tends to burn. As you can imagine, there is frequently foul-smelling belching and bloating (gas) associated with this process, along with heartburn and copious prescriptions of ACID BLOCKER DRUGS KNOWN AS PPI'S.
- The hormone, “Secretin” is stimulated by acidic chyme from stomach. It's twofold function is to stimulate the pancreas to produce sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the acidic chyme. It also stimulates the liver to secrete bile.
- The hormone “CCK” is produced when the presence of food stimulates production. It then stimulates the gallbladder to release bile and the pancreas to produce pancreatic enzymes.
- Food in the duodenum stimulates certain endocrine cells to produce GIP (Gastric Inhibitory Peptide). It has the opposite effects of gastrin; it inhibits gastric glands in the stomach and it inhibits the mixing and churning movement of stomach muscles. This slows the rate of stomach emptying when the duodenum contains food.
- The liver detoxifies blood from the intestines that it receives via the hepatic portal vein.
- The liver stores glucose as glycogen (animal starch) and breaks down glycogen to release glucose as needed. This storage-release process maintains a constant glucose concentration in the blood (.1%). If glycogen and glucose run short, proteins can be converted to glucose.
- It manufactures blood proteins.
- It destroys old red blood cells and converts hemoglobin from these cells to bilirubin, a component of bile.
- Ammonia produced by the digestion of proteins is converted to a less toxic compound (urea) by the liver.
The small intestine is approximately 27 feet long. To create more surface area (just like in the stomach), it contains numerous ridges and furrows (wrinkles). These wrinkles contain numerous finger-like projections called villi that function to further increase the surface area of the intestine. Individual villus cells are also covered with finger-like projections microvilli which increase absorptive surface area many times over (HERE). Digestive enzymes are embedded within the membrane of the microvilli. The total absorptive surface area of the Small Intestine is equivalent to 500 or 600 square yards. Each villus contains blood vessels and a lymph vessel, as this is the point where digestion ends, and absorption begins.
The junctions between the individual cells in the small intestine are said to be "tight". If for any reason they are not tight (usually a byproduct of Inflammation run amok --- remember the previous list), partially digested food particles, bacteria, viruses, mold, fungi, and all sorts of other "nasties", are allowed to enter the blood stream. This is called Leaky Gut Syndrome and is practically endemic in modern America (more to come in a bit) --- especially in those with chronic health conditions.
Absorption is a critical function of the small intestine. Glucose and amino acids are actively transported into the intestinal cells, where they are picked up by capillaries (small blood vessels). Glycerol and fatty acids produced by the digestion of fat enter the villi by diffusion, and are then reassembled into fat (triglycerides).
LARGE INTESTINE (COLON)
The colon receives nearly 3 gallons of water per day. Half a gallon comes from food and the rest comes from the various secretions into the gut. Ninety five percent of this water is reabsorbed. Be aware that even slight dehydration can adversely affect digestion (think about why ---- HCl is Hydro [water] chloric acid).
The large intestine also absorbs sodium and other ions but it excretes other metallic ions into the wastes. According to some researchers, a properly working and healthy Gut contains bacteria that can actually produce most of the vitamins your body needs (HERE). The last 8 inches of the large intestine is the rectum. Feces is composed of approximately 75% water and 25% solids. Believe it or not, one-third of the solid mass is intestinal bacteria. The rest is indigestible food (FIBER).
It is important for the person dealing with Chronic Conditions to at least have a general understanding of digestion / absorption. Knowledge is power, and if you really want to have any hope of getting better, you have to take the bull by the horns and become proactive. Taking charge of your health has to be something that YOU do for yourself. Not something that you let your doctor do FOR you.
IMMUNE SYSTEM FUNCTION
"HEALTHY FLORA" -vs- "UNHEALTHY FLORA"
If you have followed my blog, you are aware of how important the "Good Bacteria" are when it comes to health. Your whole body contains about 100 Trillion cells. Believe it or not, your gut contains about ten times that number of between 500 and several thousand species of bacteria. The majority of these bacteria are not only "Good", they are critical to your immune system function and overall health. Let's see why your Gut Flora is sometimes called "The Forgotten Organ".
- THEY MANUFACTURE VITAMINS: They make Biotin -- one of the B vitamins as well as Vitamin K. As I said earlier, many researchers believe a healthy MICROBIOME can produce all the vitamins you need except Vitamin D (which you get from the sun) and Vitamin C.
- THEY PRODUCE ENERGY: Good Bacteria can utilize energy from unused materials via the process of fermentation. Some fermentation is great. However, too much fermentation and you have a problem on your hands. In a Dysbiotic Gut, food will tend to be fermented as opposed to digested. Cancer is a fermenter as well (HERE).
- THEY "TRAIN" THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Research published in the Jan 2010 issue of Nature Medicine, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, shows us that the gut's good flora keep the immune system locked, cocked, and ready to rock. Senior author Jeffrey N. Weiser, M.D. likens this process to the performance differences between cold engines and warm engines. If the Immune System is already warmed up by "good bacteria", it can better cope with the various attacks against your body. As you might imagine, antibiotics prevent an immune system from "idling". Be aware that many people see Childhood Diseases (measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc) in the same way. They actually "train" and develop the Immune System (HERE).
- THEY PREVENT OVERGROWTH OF PATHOGENIC ("BAD") BACTERIA: There are so-called "bad" bacteria that live in harmony with the good bacteria. Keep in mind that we have to have certain amounts of all these bacteria in our system in order to stay healthy. The problems start when the two sides get out of balance. Too many bad bacteria is called Dysbiosis. Experts are showing us that we are killing off our good bacteria so fast, we are wiping out entire species ---- forever (SEE HERE). There are severe consequences for doing this. THIS and THIS help explain why simply taking Probiotics is not always the simple solution it's been made out to be. It's also why you need to avoid antibiotics like the deadly plague they are (HERE).
- THEY PREVENT OVERGROWTH OF OTHER PATHOGENIC ("BAD") ORGANISMS: There are a host of critters out there that we do not want in here. Some of these include Yeasts (Candida is a biggie), Molds, Fungus, Parasites, Protozoa, etc. Good bacteria actually keep these in check. Women understand this better than anyone (vaginal yeast infections after using antibiotics). The real problem, however, is not vaginal yeast; it's Systemic Yeast (blood-borne yeast infections). What do you think happens when yeast (or the toxic chemicals yeast produces) get into the blood stream? How about a Leaky Gut or some Fibromyalgia?
- THEY CONVERT 20% OF YOUR BODY'S INACTIVE THYROID HORMONE (T4) TO THE ACTIVE FORM (T3): Hypothyroidism affects a minimum of 10% of America's population (some experts claim the number is double that). Dysbiosis is a huge contributing factor in this because it inhibits the rate of conversion of Thyroid hormones.
- THEY DEGRADE METHYL MERCURY --- THE MOST TOXIC FORM OF MERCURY: MERCURY is the single most toxic non-radioactive element on the planet. To get it out of your body, it must be converted into a form that cannot be stored in your fatty tissues. Good Bacteria do this.
Although I heavily promote restoration of the Normal Gut Flora in my clinic by taking PROBIOTICS (HSO's -- Homeostatic Soil Organisms; the same bacteria found in organic soil), for many people, simply taking probiotics is not enough. One of the reasons that it can be difficult (impossible) to think that you can simply take probiotics and restore good bacteria has to do with bio-films (see next link). Bio-films are microscopically thin membranes that are thrown up by colonies of bad bacteria to be used as a barrier or wall against anything trying to destroy it.. These membranes make it exceedingly difficult for the Immune System cells to get at them in order to kill them.
There are natural treatments that can disrupt the biofilms enough to kill the overgrown pathogenic colonies, but some of these can be temporarily harsh and may provoke something known as a "HERXHEIMER REACTION". This is the body's reaction to too many toxins being released into the system all at once. No, it will not kill you, although it might leave you with cold-like (or even flu-like) symptoms for a few days. The Herxheimer Reaction is caused by an overload of your body's filtration systems (primarily liver, kidneys, and lymphatics) as it struggles to get rid of the toxic residue of quantum amounts of dead bacteria. The bottom line is that effective treatment of Dysbiosis can sometimes leave you feeling temporarily worse.
HOW DO PEOPLE DESTROY THEIR GOOD BACTERIA & END UP WITH TO MANY OF THE BADDIES? ANTIBIOTICS!
Although there are numerous factors that cause imbalances in the Good Bacteria - Bad Bacteria ratio (NSAIDs, the pill, HRT, Systemic Inflammation, Chronic Stress, weakened Immune system, systemic infections, poor sleep habits, not eating healthy foods, vitamin / mineral deficiencies, etc), the primary culprit is using Antibiotics. And although Antibiotics start the process and get the Dysbiosis ball rolling, the thing that feeds it and keeps the ball rolling is the massive over-consumption of processed carbs, GRAINS, SUGAR, and even high Glycemic Index fruits (HERE).
The Centers for Disease Control admits that approaching half of America's hundreds of millions of yearly antibiotic prescriptions are completely unnecessary. Many experts say that the actual number of unnecessary antibiotics is higher than that --- much higher. I have seen estimates that the number is closer to 90%. Antibiotics were invented as a stop-gap measure to save lives when all else had failed. The more you use antibiotics, the weaker you make your own immune system. If you go online right now, you can find study after study that proves the scientific community is worried ("freaking out" might be a more accurate term) over the fact that we are causing extinction of various strains of good bacteria, and causing the rise of "SUPER BUGS" at the same time! So why aren't the prescription habits of the doctors in your town changing. Ask them, not me.
THE BRAIN-GUT CONNECTION
Hopefully your "gut feeling" on this matter is to pursue it. Take 5 minutes and read this short article in our country's oldest and most prestigious Scientific Journal, Scientific American; "Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being" (HERE).
GUT / BRAIN CONNECTION:
- ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM CONTROL: The Enteric Nervous System is the Digestive System's own private nerve system that regulates the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. It helps push food along with peristaltic contractions as well as controlling the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. And, as we talked about previously, it protects the body against harmful bacteria, yeasts, parasites, fungi, undigested particles of food, heavy metals, and toxins of all sorts, that can enter the blood stream along with completely digested food. By the way, when the body can no longer control this situation, it is referred to as Increased Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome.
- CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM CONTROL: The brain does not give up total control of the of "The Gut" (digestive tract). One of the cranial nerves (Vagus) comes off the Medulla Oblongata of the lower brainstem to control the parasympathetic innervation (the part of the nervous system that promotes good bowel moments and good digestion) to the gut. To see why this is important, read on.
- FIGHT OR FLIGHT -- SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE: The body has two nerve systems --- sympathetic and the part we talked about in the previous bullet, the parasympathetic. 99% of the time, your body should be in parasympathetic mode -- relaxation. Due to constant stress (emotional stress, dietary stress, physical stress, etc), many people end up with their Adrenal Glands in the "ON" position, and the body in a constant "Fight or Flight" (sympathetic) response. The body will not only not digest food, it will either expel it (diarrhea / vomiting) or shut down the digestion process to the degree it can (constipation). For more on this phenomenon, see HERE.
- THE GUT TRIGGERS ACUTE IMMUNE RESPONSES: We are learning that the gut is important for immune response via the good bacteria that make a home there and provide the vast majority of your body's Immune System power. However, we must also be aware that the gut can trigger mast cells in the lining of the small intestine and colon to release histamine. This causes an Inflammatory response that attracts immune cells from the blood stream into the area.
- NEUROTRANSMITTERS: Acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are all found in the gut. And not only are they found there, it is estimated that as much as 95% of the body's serotonin is made in the gut (HERE). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps give people "good" feelings --- feelings of well-being. It plays a critical part in the communication between the brain and the gut (this is why people who take Prozac and other SSRI ANTIDEPRESSANTS will often experience digestive problems like diarrhea or constipation that can be stimulated by excessive serotonin).
ALLERGIES, SENSITIVITIES, & LEAKY GUT SYNDROME
A Food Sensitivity, on the other hand, is frequently defined as being milder than an Allergy because it is said that the Immune System is not actually attacking the offending food. This, however, is not completely true. Food Sensitivities affect at least 1/3 of the population, and do so via Immune System reactions. These reactions are not typically as immediate as they are in a Food Allergy, but they can be just as severe, affect any and all body systems --- often in ways that are seemingly unrelated, and last for days (even weeks). Because they do not happen immediately, people will often live a lifetime suffering from a Food Sensitivity and never realize what it is. Why? How many doctors are talking about this? Fortunately for the general population, a few are. The most common food sensitivities include:
Although I tend to use the words "Sensitivity" and "Intolerance" synonymously, this is not technically accurate. Food Intolerances are best understood in terms of Lactose Intolerance. People do not have the enzyme (Lactase) to deal with Milk Sugar (Lactose), so they react. The reactions are typically characterized by bloating, loose stools, constipation, diarrhea, and gas. Give people the proper enzyme and the problem is solved.
How do you know if you have Food Allergies, Sensitivities, or Intolerances? To know for certain do an ELIMINATION DIET. If Food Sensitivities (or other triggers) continue unchecked, the result is going to be unbridled Inflammation. As you know from previous links, Inflammation is not simply swelling. It is a group of chemicals that attacks your body from every conceivable angle. One of the chief areas that is attacked is the Gut.
Any time the gut is over-run by inflammatory mediators, you will have problems ---- big problems. The leader of the pack, so to speak, is Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut Syndrome (along with Leaky Brain, Leaky Lung, Leaky Cord, Leaky Nerve, etc) is characterized by an "Increased Permeability" of the mucosal layer of the small intestine. Increased Intestinal Permeability (The medical community's word for Leaky Gut Syndrome) means that things that should not get into the blood stream do get into the blood stream. When this happens, huge problems are created.
Leaky Gut Syndrome (along with Leaky Brain Syndrome, Leaky Lung Syndrome, and other similar "LEAKIES") are huge roadblocks to getting healthy. When the Immune System chemicals that we collectively refer to as "Inflammation" build to critical mass, they start wreaking havoc on the body. Unfortunately, most of the medical community does not admit that Leaky Gut Syndrome even exists despite the fact that there are over 10,000 studies on the subject. Why not? They don't have a drug for it.
- THE HYPOTHALAMUS:
- THE PITUITARY GLAND:
- THE PINEAL GLAND:
The Endocrine System is complex. No, I take that back. It is really complex! Realize that although the pages in the above links are short, I do not expect you to remember all of the information. I have these pages to show you what can happen when certain parts of the brain become imbalanced due to over or under-stimulation. The result is a wide variety of all sorts of health problems due to stress, injury, illness, immune system compromise, chronic infections (bacterial, viral, parasitic), low levels of oxygen (HYPOXIA), poor diet, emotional trauma, etc, etc, etc.
The focus of BRAIN-BASED THERAPY is to find these areas and use metabolic testing and / or specialized neurological / metabolic management techniques to either slow down or speed up whichever part of the brain needs.
- Controls numerous metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system.
- Controls body temperature.
- Controls hunger (see previous link)
- Controls thirst
- Determines fatigue
- Controls sleep and circadian cycles.
- Synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, often called hypothalamic-releasing hormones,
- Stimulates or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones.
The Hypothalamus makes a number of Endocrine System Hormones. These include Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone (TRH), Dopamine, Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone (GHRH), Growth Hormone Inhibiting Hormone (aka, Somatostatin), Gonadatropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH), Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH), Oxytocin, and Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH or Vasopressin)
THE PITUITARY GLAND
- THE ANTERIOR (Front) PITUITARY, aka "Adenohypophisis": The Anterior Pituitary makes eight different hormones. These are Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone (ACTH), Beta-Endorphins, Prolactin, Leutenizing Hormone (LH), Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), and Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones (MSH's). What I really want you to grasp here is the mechanism for increased Cortisol production. Stress (emotional, dietary, chemical, immune system, etc) triggers the secretion of Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH) by the hypothalamus. This, in turn, triggers the Anterior Pituitary to release ACTH, which is carried by the blood to the Adrenal Glands, where it triggers Cortisol Production.
- THE POSTERIOR (Back) PITUITARY, aka "Neurohypohpisis": The Posterior Pituitary makes two different hormones. Oxytocin and Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH or Vasopressin).
THE PINEAL GLAND
PANCREAS / BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION
We know for a fact that most cases of Adrenal Dysfunction as well as the majority of Thyroid Dysfunction cases are rooted in an inability to control blood sugar. If you cannot get blood sugar under control, you will never be able to get other problems of the Endocrine System (Fibromyalgia for instance) under control. This also means that if you are not able to maintain an optimal weight, you are not properly regulating blood sugar, despite the fact that your blood may be within the range that your doctor says is fine --- a common situation in America.
The pancreas is part of the Digestive System. It secretes a digestive juice that contains digestive enzymes that helps to break down and digest the three types of food: fats, carbohydrates, & proteins. However, its most important function is as an Endocrine Gland that secretes several hormones. We are going to cover two of them; Insulin & Glucagon.
Glucagon, on the other hand, works opposite to Insulin. It takes stored fat and converts it into blood sugar that can be burned as energy. Just remember, a failure to control insulin is the root of a huge percentage of the illness and disease that commonly affect Americans --- including numerous problems of the Endocrine System.
THYROID / METABOLISM
- Weight Gain (even on a low cal diet)
- Morning Headaches
- Hypersensitivity to Cold
- Poor Circulation or Numbness in Hands or Feet
- Muscle Cramps / Spasms
- Easily Sick / Difficulty Recovering from Illness
- Slow Wound Healing
- Tired all the Time / Insomnia (The December 2013 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology published a study (Sleep, Immunity and Inflammation in Gastrointestinal Disorders) saying that, "An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder.")
- Poor Digestive Health
- Dry or Brittle Hair / Dry Skin
- Edema / Swelling (especially facial)
- Loss of Outer Eyebrow
Your Thyroid Gland is a small gland in the throat region that controls metabolism. As we talked about just a moment ago, the root cause of much (probably even "most") Thyroid Dysfunction is an inability to properly regulate blood sugar. Note that this is likely true even if your doctor tells you that your fasting blood sugar is "normal". This occurs because the blood sugar ranges that are considered to be normal by the medical community are actually far too liberal. This same phenomenon is routinely seen in Thyroid Dysfunction as well.
At least 10% of the population has thyroid problems. I have seen estimates that actually double this number. And interestingly enough, a huge segment of this group has "normal" thyroid levels on their blood tests. This is because 90% of hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid function) is actually something called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis --- an autoimmune condition of the thyroid. Be aware that treating Hashimoto's as a thyroid problem will frequently not bear good results --- at least over the long haul. This is because autoimmune problems are not problems with the gland, organ, or tissue being attacked by your own immune system; they are problems with the immune system itself. If you fail to address the immune system, you will never get the thyroid issue under control for the long term, and your symptoms (not to mention your blood work) will bounce around all over the place.
The Thyroid Gland is also intimately linked to Gut function. A peer-reviewed scientific journal published a study in 2008 stated that at least 70 million Americans have Gut Dysfunctions. The same article went on to say that besides Hashimoto's itself, Gut Dysfunction is one of the most overlooked medical problems in America. This begs the question, though, of why. If Gut Dysfunctions are so rampantly out of control, why aren't doctors talking about this phenomenon? The reason is twofold:
- #1. Like I said earlier, many Immune System / Gut dysfunctions begin with antibiotics. Medical Doctors tend to prescribe lots and lots of antibiotics, despite huge amounts of peer-reviewed scientific evidence to the contrary. Fortunately, even the medical community is being forced to at least talk about this phenomenon (SEE HERE).
- #2. In All honesty, it is the rare doctor that has any idea about what to do with the various problems that make up a Dysbiotic / Dysfunctional Gut. In fact, many will deny that some of these problems even exist at all (Leaky Gut Syndrome for instance) because they do not show up on standard blood work or typical medical diagnostic testing. Be aware that there is now enough medical research on both of these topics that the medical community is finding it increasingly difficult to ignore.
Let us take a moment and briefly review five of the most common Gut Dysfunctions. These various Gut Dysfunctions often travel like wolves ---- in packs. It is common for testing to verify several of the following in chronically sick individuals.
- DYSBIOSIS: Understanding Dysbiosis is critical for Thyroid Health. This is because 20% of the body's T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) is converted to the active form of thyroid hormone (T3) in the presence of "good" bacteria in the Gut! Be aware that poor flora actually creates toxins that can severely affect the liver, causing hydrogenation (creation of Trans Fats) of healthy unsaturated fatty acids. Some of these toxins have repulsive-sounding names ---- "Scatol" and "Cadaverol" are two that come immediately to mind. As you might imagine, the smell produced by these two bacteria is absolutely disgusting. Could be the reason that one of the most common symptoms of Dysbiosis is bloating and smelly gas ---- the kind of foulness that could gag a maggot! If you have a true "Dysbiotic Gut", you will not be able to fix this by simply taking probiotics. A perfect example is the bacteria Yersinia Enterocolitica. Those who test positive are 14 times more likely than the general population to have the Autoimmune Thyroid disease we call Hashimoto's Disease. Want to fix Dysbiosis? Read THESE POSTS.
- HYPOCHLORHYDRIA: Several major studies cite poor digestion as a leading cause of Autoimmunity --- the very thing that causes 90% of this country's hypothyroidism. Hypochlorhydria is decreased stomach acid. Although most people are told that the reason they have indigestion, heartburn, gas, etc, is because they have too much or too strong stomach acid, the truth is probably 180 degrees reversed. They do not have enough stomach acid or it is too dilute (weak). Make sure to go back and read my earlier links.
- H. PYLORI INFECTION: Heliobacteria Pylori is the name of one of the bacteria that lives in the gut and commonly overgrows the stomach --- especially if Hypochlorhydria is present. There are ways to deal with this bacterial overgrowth that do not involve the thing that probably caused it in the first place ---- antibiotics.
- VARIOUS PARASITIC INFECTIONS: We live in America. We are clean. We don't get parasites. Wrong! Parasites are common ---- dog common. If you have an underlying parasitic infection, it could be completely derailing your health. By the way, this is one of the common factors associated with developing Adrenal Fatigue (Fibromyalgia).
- LEAKY GUT SYNDROME: Leaky Gut Syndrome is caused by out-of-control Inflammation, which itself is caused by many of the things above (particularly Dysbiosis and Parasites). The various dysfunctions of the digestive system work together like a pack of wolves to attack from lots of different angles. This can produce a vast array of problems in the Gut (as well as the rest of the body) as particles of undigested food (or even small parasites) are allowed into the blood stream to be continually reacted against by the Immune System. This causes massive Inflammation, which not only feeds the cycle but exhausts the Adrenal Glands and subsequently drags down Thyroid function. When the "gut" and digestive tract are not working properly, how in the world is the rest of the body going to function properly? It cannot! No way! POOR GUT HEALTH is where numerous other health problems begin!
ADRENAL GLAND, IMMUNE FUNCTION, STRESS, & FIBROMYALGIA
When we were young, many of us believed we could handle sugar overload (I CERTAINLY DID). After all, who doesn't know people that used to (key words here, "used to") be able to eat an entire pizza, follow it with several Krispy Kremes, wash it down with a 55 gallon barrel of soda, and still maintain an acceptable weight --- or even remain DOWNRIGHT SKINNY. If you are living like this, trust me; it won't last. It can't. The proof can be found at your next high school reunion. When the pancreas is perpetually overtaxed, it recruits the Adrenal Glands to take up the slack, and Katie bar the doors because what happens next is a perpetual grab-bag of dysfunction.
Have you ever noticed that you tend to get very tired after a heavy meal (particularly a meal high in refined carbs --- potatoes, pasta, bread, sugar, etc)? This is due to insulin doing its job. We eat a high carb meal, which rapidly increases blood sugar. Because blood sugar must be kept in a constant range, the body releases insulin to move sugar out of the cells to be used as energy or stored as fat. The result is often a rapid drop (sometimes more like a "plummet") of blood sugar. It actually "reactively" drops below normal causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is "REACTIVE HYPOGLYCEMIA" and is always a sign of Dysglycemia ---- an early step on the road to Diabetes.
Dietary stress causes the Adrenal Glands to secrete Cortisol --- the body's chief stress hormone. One of the many jobs of cortisol is to increase blood sugar. The constant yo-yo'ing caused by meals or snacks high in sugar and refined carbs, not only burns out the pancreas (leading to Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Diabetes), it exhausts the Adrenal Glands and Hypothalamus as well (HERE). On top of that, increased cortisol levels can actually shift active thyroid hormone (T3) back to the inactive form (T4), causing further symptoms of Hypothyroidism. It also exhausts the brain's control centers for cortisol production (chiefly the Hypothalamus and Pituitary).
CONSISTENTLY HIGH CORTISOL LEVELS CAUSE:
- Diminished Immune System Function
- Frequent Infections / Colds / Illness / Ulcers
- Hypothyroidism/ Low Energy Levels
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar & Reactive Hypoglycemia (subsequent rapid drop in blood sugar)
- Obesity (particularly abdominal fat and the upper back -- like a "hump")
- High LDL Cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
- Increase Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease (heart attacks, strokes, etc)
- Female Hormonal Issues
- Depression / Anxiety
- Muscle Weakness
- Increased Pain Sensitivity
IMPORTANT NOTE: Rarely talking about full-blown Cushing's Syndrome here. Cushing's Syndrome is a condition caused by dramatically elevated Cortisol levels in the blood whose symptoms are similar to those seen above and include elevated blood pressure, diabetes, pink / purple stretch marks on the abdomen, fatigue, depression, moodiness, and accentuated fatty tissue on the face and upper back. Women with Cushing's Syndrome may develop irregular menstrual periods and develop new facial hair growth, as well as a decrease in sex drive. Sometimes the line between Adrenal Fatigue and Cushing's Syndrome is very thin, but Cushings can be diagnosed via blood tests --- Adrenal Fatigue is subclinical.
And here is the final kick in the teeth as far as your gut is concerned. A 2007 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology published a study that described a relationship between perpetually high cortisol levels and increased incidence of Chronic Inflammation, Chronic Infections, and Gut Dysbiosis. That's right. Even though the American medical community continues to play the "ostrich" and deny the problem, the Europeans are completely aware of this phenomenon and are light years ahead of us in trying to deal with it, as well as educating both their doctors and the general public about this crisis.
Not only will increased dietary stress lead to increased cortisol production, which in turn leads to a weakened Immune System; it leads to all sorts of other problems including Fibromyalgia (Adrenal Fatigue) and OBESITY --- particularly "Central Obesity" (BELLY FAT). Trailing just behind our country's epidemic of Blood Sugar Regulation Dysfunction and Gut Dysfunctions; ADRENAL GLAND IMBALANCE is one of the most common (and least diagnosed) health problems facing Americans today. Oh, if you want to find out how healthy or "burned out" your adrenal glands are; you need to do a salivary ASI test.
IMMUNE SYSTEM CENTERPIECE
The Thymus Gland sits between your heart and chest wall, and is made up of cells whose purpose is to both to produce and "train" T-Lymphocytes --- white blood cells that are otherwise known as T-cells (see link below). These cells are part of what we call "Cell Mediated Immunity". Cell Mediated Immunity is the part of your immune system that is involved with THE TH-1 PATHWAY, which is the part of the immune system that carries on the work of destroying invading pathogens. THE TH-2 SYSTEM ("Humoral Immunity") is involved with making the antibodies that "mark" invaders for destruction by the TH-1 System.
The T-cells made and trained by the Thymus Gland make up what we call the "TH-1 PATHWAY" and include....
- HELPER T-CELLS (AKA CD4 CELLS): This class of cell is responsible for "helping" other immune system cells to mature, as well as with immune system processes. Once activated, they divide rapidly and produce Inflammatory Chemicals called "Cytokines", which are part of the body's natural Inflammation process. When too much Inflammation is present it drives all sorts of ugly and debilitating health problems.
- CYTOTOXIC T-CELLS: These cells go after cells infected with either Viruses or Cancer.
- MEMORY T-CELLS: These cells hang around long after an infection is resolved. Their job is to recognize (from memory) the pathogen that caused the problem in the first place, and then rapidly replicate itself into other T-cells capable of dealing with the pathogen.
- REGULATORY T-CELLS (TREGS) / SUPPRESSOR T-CELLS: This group of cell's duty is to both slow down or halt Immune System processes, as well as suppressing T-Cells that have been deemed "unfit" by the Thymus Gland (HERE). All of this prevents your Immune System from becoming a runaway train.
- KILLER T-CELLS: These do exactly what their name implies; they kill pathogens. These cells have aspects that make them similar to Inflammation.
- POORLY REGULATED BLOOD SUGAR:
- LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:
- FOOD ALLERGIES / SENSITIVITIES:
- CHEMICAL EXPOSURE:
- HEAVY METALS:
- ENDOCRINE DYSFUNCTION:
The key to understanding Autoimmunity is firstly realizing that it is not a problem with the tissue, gland, or organ that is being attacked. It is a problem with the Immune System itself. Secondly, you must realize that it is a scientifically proven fact that 80% of your entire Immune System resides in your Gut. Re-read that statement. Let it sink in for a moment. Scientists in Australia proved something back in 1998 that much of the scientific community has postulated for decades. Why do you think that if you go back forty or fifty years ago, every single person that was admitted to the hospital for any reason, first received an ENEMA? Doctors had not yet become TOTALLY BRAINWASHED. It was still realized that cleaning out the bowel helped the Immune System work better and the patient heal faster!
A common trigger of Autoimmune Disease in women is pregnancy (remember that women suffer from Autoimmunity at a 10 times greater rate than men). During the third trimester a woman typically becomes TH-2 dominant, and then after having the baby, becomes TH-1 dominant. When you combine pregnancy with the other risk factors commonly facing today's women (Gut Dysfunction, Antibiotics, crappy diets, Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, Hormonal Issues, Blood Sugar Dysregulation, etc), you have a recipe for disaster as far as Autoimmunity is concerned. Not only are Autoimmunity and PREGNANCY intimately related to each other, infant Autoimmunity is now thought to be at the center of the AUTISM CONTROVERSY as well.
Many children are born with immune systems that are already so weakened by mom's poor habits that they simply need the trigger (Heavy Metals, ANTIBIOTICS, Parasites, VACCINES, etc). This is because mom got pregnant while dealing with one or more of these very problems herself. The result? A child that is born with Autism, eczema, psoriasis, IBS, ASTHMA, reflux, food sensitivities, as well as a whole host of others.
- MULTIPLE GUT DYSFUNCTIONS (Including DIGESTION, NEUROLOGICAL, & IMMUNE SYSTEM Functions)
- BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION PROBLEMS / SUGAR ADDICTION (Borderline Pathological ---- or maybe not so borderline)
- ADRENAL FATIGUE / FIBROMYALGIA
- THYROID DYSFUNCTION
As men age, their bodies naturally decrease TESTOSTERONE PRODUCTION. It is also clinically proven that men with Blood Sugar Regulation Problems such as Diabetes, Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, tend to have both poor sexual function as well as diminished testosterone levels (women often end up with "INCREASED TESTOSTERONE LEVELS"). How does this affect the rest of the Endocrine System?
For those who have not been keeping score, Dysglycemia is the starting point for most Endocrine System problems. If you cannot regulate your blood sugar, eventually you are going to have problems --- with just about everything. Although men do not generally have as difficult a time with this as women, you can tell by the epidemic of ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION, Obesity, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and INFERTILITY, that American men are not regulating blood sugar very well either.
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