Friday, October 24, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 5

Medical understandings about brain-body connection is increasing by leaps and bounds, especially regarding the connection between the brain in one’s skull and the “second brain” in one’s gut. Sue Shepherd, PhD, is a dietitian, senior lecturer at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and a research scientist who is internationally recognized as an expert on the low-FODMAP diet and irritable bowel syndrome. Diagnosed with celiac disease herself, Dr. Shepherd consults on several international medical advisory committees for gastrointestinal conditions. Her book coauthored with Peter Gibson, MD, and William D. Chey, MD, is entitled The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders. I have yet to read it. However, Gerard E. Mullin, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in commenting about this book wrote: “Begin your journey back to good gut health by using food as medicine.” Bottom line? Your “second brain” definitely impacts your “first brain.” Take care of one and it can positively impact the other—and vice versa. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 4

Have you heard about FODMAPs—an acronym coined by a group of researchers who were studying several types of digestive disorders? The acronym stands for fermentable oligo-, di- and mono-saccharides, and polyols—types of short-chain carbs that are commonly found in modern Western diets but that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines and easily fermented by bacteria: fructan in wheat, fructose in some fruits and artificial sweeteners, lactose in some dairy products, and galactans in some legumes. Foods that contain these forms of carbohydrates may exacerbate the symptoms of some digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) that may be a type of gluten intolerance, and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). Studies have shown that in some people their bowl symptoms may be due to the presence of these FODMAPs more than to gluten. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 3

Gluten-free products, so-called, are proliferating. But what really is gluten? Many people seem to be on the gluten-free bandwagon but don’t always seem to even know what gluten is. You may have watched the YouTube segment by Jimmy Kimmel about gluten (see link below). As you may know, gluten is a protein composite, gliadin and glutenin, that is limited to specific members of the grass family, including wheat, barley, and rye. It gives dough its elasticity, helps it to rise, and provides a chewy texture for many products. Some people have a wheat allergy; the immune system treats a component of wheat as a foreign body. Typically this immune response is time-limited with no lasting harm to body tissues. Different from wheat allergies, some individuals with celiac disease experience adverse health issues ranging from bloating, gas, and diarrhea and vomiting, to migraine headaches and joint pain. And different from either wheat allergy or celiac, some experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (likely a gluten intolerance) that may be caused by a reaction to other components of wheat. Enter FODMAPs.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 2

Neurons have been identified in the Enteric Nervous System, also known as your GI system—at least a million. That’s one reason some scientists refer to the ENS as the ‘second brain.’ This stance is also changing perspectives on functional gastrointestinal disorders or FGID. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is now being referred to as an enteric neuropathy: enteric referring to the bowel and neuropathy indicating that the nerves are functioning sub-optimally. Patricia Raymond, MD, assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, points out that fiber can function like an on-off switch for IBS. Soluble fiber can slow down movement in the digestive tract, helping with diarrhea. Soluble fiber-rich foods include fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples, avocado, dried figs and prunes, oranges, and mango; and veggies such as asparagus, edamame, broccoli, green beans and peas, carrots, plus legumes, oats, barley, and psyllium. Insoluble fiber can speed up movement, alleviating constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found in zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, grapes, root vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, legumes, oats, and nuts. And what does that matter? Neurons in the gut communicate regularly with neurons in the brain. A healthier gut often means a more well-functioning brain. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Your "Second Brain"

Some researchers are now talking about your “second brain.” What are they referring to? Your Enteric Nervous System or ENS—otherwise known as your gastrointestinal system. What forms the basis for this designation? Neurons. Thinking cells. Your ENS contains a million-plus neurons. They look just like brain neurons, eat the same type of food (neurotrophins), and have at least 30 neurotransmitters in common. Most of the serotonin in your brain and body—perhaps as much as 90%—is found in your gut along with half of all the dopamine. Knowing this it should be no surprise that an upset stomach can trigger a headache and upset emotions can result in a GI upset (e.g., constipation, diarrhea). An excess release of serotonin can cause nausea and vomiting, and so on. There is a close connection between brain and body, specifically between your first and second brains. More tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 5

It’s been known for some time that ingesting saturated fats, especially from non-plant sources, can adversely impact one’s health. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied the impact of trans fatty acids (TFAs) on blood vessel health. They wanted to investigate whether different diets affect the blood vessels' ability to dilate or expand; namely a comparison of a diet high in TFAs (9.2 percent of fats ingested were TFAs) versus one in which saturated fats replaced the TFAs. (Takeaway? TFAs are even more lethal than animal-derived saturated fats.) According to Nicole M. de Roos, M.Sc., a Ph.D. fellow and lead author of the study, although trans fats typically make up a relatively small portion of total fat ingested, it can have a huge impact on disease risk. They found that the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was 29 percent lower in people who ate the high-TFA diet compared those on the saturated fat diet. Blood levels of HDL cholesterol were 21 percent lower in the TFA group compared to the saturated fat group. Bottom line? Avoid TFAs. Lower your intake of animal-derived saturated fats. Use healthier fats in moderation (e.g., cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, avocados).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 4

Reportedly, trans fatty acids (TFAs) make up 4 percent to 7 percent of the dietary fat intake in the United States and the Netherlands. What is the effect on the potential health of individuals who ingest trans fats? It isn’t pretty! TFAs are created when hydrogen atoms are forced into liquid oils, such as soybean or corn oils. This process is required to make oils solid at room temperature so they can be used in processed foods and so the shelf-life of processed foods can be increased. When you read the terms "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils you know some of the ingredients have been subjected to this process. TFAs are commonly found in margarine, packaged baked goods, cookies, crackers, and restaurant fried foods. Trans fatty acids have been found to raise the lousy LDL cholesterol and lower the healthy HDL cholesterol, which can contribute to any number of disorders in the brain and body, especially cardiovascular disease that impacts both the heart and the brain. Is there a relationship between TFAs and decreased dilation of blood vessels? More tomorrow.