Important Connections: Brain, Gut and Immune System

Important Connections: Brain, Gut and Immune System

When it comes to health of the brain, you might be surprised to hear that the gut and the immune system are major players! Yes, even though the gut resides far away from the brain, and the immune system seems to be in its own league of influence they are important to talk about when we talk about the health of the brain.

In fact, the entire craniosacral system is in dynamic relationship with the gut and the immune system. Understanding these relationships can help us understand how to promote longevity and go so far as to reverse debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

But before we go that far, let me start simply by talking to you about the brain, the gut and the immune system.

As we all know, advanace in anatomy do not come at a very fast rate, at least not typically. In the last few years, however, there has been some exciting developments worth sharing here. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that there is evidence of a nerve tract which extends from the meningeal system in the brain all the way to the gut! The meningeal system lines the inside of the bones protecting the brain a bit like a shower cap and closely relates and works with the craniosacral system.

For quite a long time it had been thought there must be some correlation between the information and communication between these two but up until now solid scientific support has not existed, you can only imagine the excitement in the discovery.

Are you wondering why noting this connection is important? Before I connect these dots, let me introduce the immune system.

Just as the meningeal system acts like a shower cap for the brain, so there are protective barriers that exist inside to gut to protect the food we intake and keep it isolated so it doesn’t flow inappropriately into other parts of the body. A common condition occurring when the barrier fails is called leaky gut syndrome. But how could it fail?

The largest cause seems to be the types of food we eat or when inflammation occurs. Processed foods and sugars are one such food. Both causes leave more acid in the mucosal lining of the gut. This acid creates microtears, or holes. And these holes cause a leaky gut.

But wait! The plot thickens. Food particles move through the holes, or pores, and enter the body cavity. Since the food is not where it is supposed to be, it is spotted by the immune system and believed to be an invader. In a way, the food is an invader so the response of our bodies is appropriate. In order to protect the body, the immune system turns its attention to gobbling up the food particles. Resources are drained from the immune system and the resilience of the one suffering declines.

So here the immune system is strained, the gut is experiencing trauma and the brain is in the loop because of the connection through the hard wire tract providing connection.

This set the stage for our next article when I connect the dots, not only on how the connection of these three can increase stress in the person but even better, how the powerful technique, Craniosacral Therapy has a way to reach all three at once.





Defining The Players Of A Healthy Brain

Defining The Players Of A Healthy Brain

With Alzheimer’s and dementia on the rise it can be empowering for us to understand what is actually happening in the brain when it deteriorates. Why?

Because there are choices we can make to help increase brain health for ourselves or our loved ones even in the presence of decline or diagnosis.

The key players here are neurons, synapses, glial cells or the glymphatic system, cerebral spinal fluid and plaques such as amyloid beta. What is the relationship of all these pieces? Let me first define each one separately, then we can put the puzzle pieces together.

The most obvious or known to most of us are the neurons and synapses. The brain functions by way of firing electrical information across synapses from neuron to neuron. When the brain is healthy, the firing is healthy and contributes it’s part to the health of the entire person.

Cerebral spinal fluid, or extracellular fluid, sits like a thin membrane right inside the skull and around the brain. It both protects the brain as a whole and nourishes the neurons and neurotransmitters as it washes around and through all the cells.
This brings us to the glial cells, or glymphatic system.
Cutting edge research is shining a light upon the newly defined (and Nobel Prize winning) research identifying this system that runs through the body and brain.

The glial cells surround all the cells in the body to provide a way for waste to move out. In the brain they work a little differently. Billions, about a hundred billion to be a bit more exact, of glial cells form tendrils as fine as a web that extend from the periphery of the brain down deep into every single tiny space inside the brain. The tendrils are sometimes called astrocytes.

This vast network provides a way for the cerebral spinal fluid to move through the brain to do its nourishing job and to remove toxins. When the flow is steady the brain maintains greater health. When the flow is constricted, the neurons cannot do their job and sometimes even die. Inflammation is named as the chief cause. Inflammation comes from many causes but one to mention here is the last player in our series of definitions.

Amyloid beta. It is a protein toxin that clogs the brain. It is called a plaque, so you can think of plaque that collects on objects like our teeth, or on a mored boat. When this plaque increases, inflammation increases and the astrocytes become constricted.

Which means the cerebral spinal fluid cannot wash through all the places of the brain to refresh and renew.
One chief result is memory loss, from simple decline all the way to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

So now knowing the players we can change our choices to increase the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid, to decrease inflammation through diet, exercise and the focus of the next article, sleep.