Page Synopsis: The Digestive system is considered a 'second brain', with almost as many neuronal type connections as the brain as well as functional analogies to neuronal synaptic actions

Improvements to the balance of gut flora resonate throughout the body affecting every body system as well as psychology and general feeling of wellness

Skill Level  5

Relevance:5 Technical Level:2

Studies come out almost daily on the impact of gut health on diverse and seemingly unconnected bodily functions and psychological psychiatric traits


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Major Study Links Gut Bacteria to Fatigue in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) (see bottom of page for full report pdf)


The Gut Immune Brain Vagus Nerve axis and it's relation to CFS (and tbi)


70% of the immune system is located in the gut

“Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the gut,” says David Heber, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health. “Nutrition is a key modulator of immune function.”


Immune cells in the gut interact with the microbiome, the diverse array of bacteria and fungi that live in the gastrointestinal tract and are directly influenced by an individual’s diet and lifestyle.


The foods we eat affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells. Those gut bugs are healthiest and support strong immunity when their hosts (that’s us) consume plant foods that are high in fiber.


“The microbiome and the immune system are critically intertwined,” says Jonathan Jacobs, MD, PhD, a professor of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “What’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get.”


Dietary diversity and microbial diversity go together, Dr. Jacobs says. The typical Western diet, which is high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods and saturated fat, results in less-diverse gut bacteria and promotes inflammation and chronic disorders, he says.


A fiber-rich diet, on the other hand, supports the microbiome and reduces inflammatory response.


“Gut bacteria subsist on complex carbohydrates and fiber that our own cells are unable to digest,” Dr. Jacobs says. Those fibrous sources are plant foods, from apples and broccoli to yams and zucchini.


Carrying extra weight also affects immune function, says Dr. Heber, founding director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Fat stores, once thought to be inert tissue, actually secrete hormones and chemicals that stimulate inflammation. Medically known as adipose tissue, fat is now understood to be a “metabolically active endocrine organ,” says Vijaya Surampudi, MD.


“Obesity affects the immune system directly,” she says. The low-grade inflammation obesity stimulates is an immune-system response.


Maintaining a healthy weight through a plant-based diet boosts the microbiome and the immune system. Here are some strategies doctors recommend:


Eat plenty of plants. Dr. Heber recommends seven servings a day of colorful fruits and vegetables. “From a health standpoint, plant-based eating is what you need to do,” he says.


Eat good fats. “Healthy fats support immune function,” Dr. Heber says. He suggests cooking with olive oil, avocado oil or canola oil. He also adds avocado slices to salads in lieu of dressing and uses olive oil in a spray bottle when cooking. Good fats such as these should comprise 20% to 40% of daily caloric intake, he says.


Eat wild-caught fish. Dr. Heber says wild-caught fish are healthier than farmed varieties. He aims to eat fish three times a week and takes a daily, 1,200-milligram fish-oil supplement.


Eat protein at every meal. The typical American diet features a big serving of protein at dinner, in the form of a hearty steak, perhaps, but the immune system fares better on more regular protein servings. “We are doing our bodies a disservice when we do not have enough protein with each meal,” says Michael C. Garcia, MD. Like fat, muscle is an endocrine organ that directly affects the immune system, he says, and muscle is made from protein. Dietary protein can come from animal products, but plant sources are better for the microbiome.


Use natural spices and herbs in food preparation. Not only do herbs and spices add flavor to foods, they’re rich in phytochemicals that may support gut-bug diversity.


For more information on the importance of a healthy diet, visit the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition

Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to imbalanced microbiome


Scientists identify abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, including those with and without co-morbid IBS


Date: April 26, 2017

Source: Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Summary: Abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria are related to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS, in patients with and without concurrent irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, scientists have discovered.




Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have discovered abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria related to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS, in patients with and without concurrent irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Findings are published in the journal Microbiome.


The study is among the first to disentangle imbalances in the gut bacteria in individuals with ME/CFS and IBS. ME/CFS is a complex, debilitating disorder characterized by extreme fatigue after exertion and other symptoms including muscle and joint pain, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbance, and orthostatic intolerance. Up to 90 percent of ME/CFS patients also have IBS.


The researchers followed 50 patients and 50 matched healthy controls recruited at four ME/CFS clinical sites. They tested for bacterial species in fecal samples, and for immune molecules in blood samples.


They report:


Levels of distinct intestinal bacterial species -- Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, Dorea, Coprococcus, Clostridium, Ruminococcus, Coprobacillus -- were strongly associated with ME/CFS; their combined relative abundance appeared to be predictive of diagnosis

Increased abundance of unclassified Alistipes and decreased Faecalibacterium were the top biomarkers of ME/CFS with IBS; while increased unclassified Bacteroides abundance and decreased Bacteroides vulgatus were the top biomarkers of ME/CFS without IBS


An analysis of bacterial metabolic pathways associated with disturbances in gut bacteria revealed distinct differences between ME/CFS and ME/CFS subgroups relative to healthy controls


In ME/CFS subgroups, symptom severity measures, including pain and fatigue, correlated with the abundance of distinct bacterial types and metabolic pathways


No changes were observed in immune markers -- a finding that may reflect the dearth of participants who had been ill for a short time; earlier research suggests immune changes may only be evident when comparing short and long duration cases


"Individuals with ME/CFS have a distinct mix of gut bacteria and related metabolic disturbances that may influence the severity of their disease," says co-lead investigator Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, postdoctoral research scientist at CII.


"Our analysis suggests that we may be able to subtype patients with ME/CFS by analyzing their fecal microbiome," says co-lead investigator Brent L. Williams, assistant professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at CII. "Subtyping may provide clues to understanding differences in manifestations of disease."


"Much like IBS, ME/CFS may involve a breakdown in the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut mediated by bacteria, their metabolites, and the molecules they influence," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of CII and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School. "By identifying the specific bacteria involved, we are one step closer to more accurate diagnosis and targeted therapies."


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Linked with Differences in Gut Bacteria

People with chronic fatigue syndrome may have imbalances in their gut bacteria, a new study suggests.


The study found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome  had higher levels of certain gut bacteria and lower levels of others compared to healthy people who didn't have the condition.


The researchers then checked to see if these imbalances also characterized the subset of patients in the study who had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal disorder that is common in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Results showed that  patients did indeed have different patterns of gut bacteria disturbances depending on whether they had only chronic fatigue syndrome or both chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS.


The findings suggest that researchers may be able to divide chronic fatigue syndrome patients into different groups depending on their gut bacteria imbalances, which could aid in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, the researchers said. 5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health


Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disorder in which people have extreme fatigue that is not improved by rest and is not the result of another medical condition. An estimated 35 percent to 90 percent of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome also report abdominal discomfort consistent with symptoms of IBS, the researchers said.


The reason for the link between chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS is not clear; chronic fatigue syndrome may predispose patents to developing IBS, or the two conditions might share underlying causes, the researchers said.


Previous studies have already found district differences in gut bacteria in chronic fatigue syndrome patients compared to healthy people. But the new study is one of the first to look for differences between gut bacteria in chronic fatigue syndrome patients who have IBS and bacteria in those who do not have IBS.


The researchers analyzed fecal samples from 50 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 50 healthy people who did not have the condition. Nearly half of the chronic fatigue syndrome patients, 21 out of 50, also had IBS.


The researchers found that differences in the levels of six types of gut bacteria — Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, Dorea, Coprococcus, Clostridium, Ruminococcus and Coprobacillu — were strongly linked with chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the relative abundance of these species in participants' guts could be used to predict whether the patients had chronic fatigue syndrome, the researchers said.


In addition, researchers found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS had higher levels of a type of bacteria called Alistipes and lower levels of a type of bacteria called Faecalibacterium. Meanwhile the patients who had chronic fatigue syndrome but not  IBShad higher levels of a genus of bacteria called Bacteroides but lower amounts of a specific species in this genus called Bacteroides vulgatus.


Some researchers have hypothesized that altered gut bacteria may play a role in the causing chronic fatigue syndrome, because some research shows that a person's gut bacteria may affect their central nervous system and immune system. However, it's also possible that changes in gut bacteria are a consequence of having chronic fatigue syndrome.


Future studies should look further into gastrointestinal symptoms and their relation to gut bacteria disturbances in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, the researchers said.


It's possible that one day researchers could use information about a patient's gut bacteria, the metabolic pathways that those bacteria are involved in and the immune molecules present in the blood to more accurately diagnosis people with chronic fatigue syndrome and develop more specific treatments for the condition, the researchers said

Neurotransmitters are made in the gut

Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds

Seven Reasons A Brain Injury Can Destroy Your Gut


According to Dr. Kharrazian, there are seven key ways in which traumatic brain injury can alter GI function, each of which may contribute to your chronic gastrointestinal disorders.


Autonomic Dysregulation – this occurs when the autonomic nervous system no longer appropriately  controls things that should come automatically, like heart rate, breathing, and gut motility.   If the system becomes overactive to a sympathetic stimulus the result may trigger a chronic pain loop that is hard to control, leading to abdominal pain.


Disorders of visceral sensing and processing – Visceral sensing is the gut’s way of telling the brain what is going on.   Sensations in the gut such as temperature, pH, contractility communicate with the brain to notify the body what is happening in the digestive system.  Disruption of these sensing circuits is one of the main factors implicated in irritable bowel disorders (IBS).  Brain injury often contributes to a broken communication network between gut and brain.


Increase in intestinal permeability (leaky gut) –  After brain  injury the tight junctions that connect the cells that line your gut often become dysfunctional and allow large molecules to enter from the digestive tract into the blood stream.  Normally these tight junctions are protecting you from the large molecules, such as undigested food particles, bacterial parts or other luminal contacts that could cross over into the blood stream.  We know that the increase in intestinal permeability is a key factor in the development of autoimmune diseases, from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to multiple sclerosis.


Compromise of intestinal mucosa – Very commonly after brain injury, there is a compromise in the health of the mucosal lining.  We see this in patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as well… anytime the body is under massive stress, there is a tendency for the mucosa that lines the gut to atrophy and die.  The changes we see are often immediate and occur within minutes after brain injury, severe trauma or infection.


Breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) – The BBB, as it is affectionately known, protects your delicate gray matter from outside chemicals and inflammatory agents that may cause problems if allowed to enter.  After a brain injury, this barrier is often compromised, allowing massive inflammatory triggers inside the brain where they do not belong.


Brain Immune Dysfunction  – The Central Nervous System (CNS) controls much of the immune system and the production of inflammatory signaling molecules, like cytokines.  If there is an injury to the signaling mechanism it may contribute to either over-activation or under-activation of the immune system  This can lead to either immune compromise or autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself.


Impaired gut motility – Sadly we see this as a factor in many disorders such as intestinal dysbiosis and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).   The impairment in smooth muscle contractility of the gut mucosa leads to dysmotility. This dysmotility leads stagnation  and alteration in bowel function and even malabsorption.  Ultimately patients may have very severe symptoms related to this problem of abnormal peristalsis in the gut.


Can see how these many mechanisms of action on the gut after brain injury may contribute to chronic pain and dysfunction, not only in the gut but the immune system as well?  Here’s some simple things you can do to ensure you will maintain a healthy gut for life!


So What Can I Do to Maintain a Healthy Gut?

Eat a variety of colorful organic and local produce

Avoid genetically modified foods and glyphosate which contribute to a leaky gut

Take a daily multi-strain probiotic to support your microbiome and immune system

Eat prebiotic-rich fruits and vegetables to feed your healthy gut bugs

Protect your noggin!  Wear a helmet if you are skiing, biking or doing any activity that involves risk of head trauma

Try Restore, my favorite new product to restore gut health and heal tight junction

Filaretova L. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system: Hormonal brain-gut interaction and gastroprotection.
Auton Neurosci. 2006 Apr 30;125(1-2):86-93


The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system is a hormonal component of brain-gut axis. There are two opposite points of view regarding the influence of stress-induced activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system on the stomach. According to the widely held view, glucocorticoids released during stress are ulcerogenic hormones and, therefore, stress-induced activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system is harmful. The results of our investigations are, however, opposite to this traditional view. To estimate the action of glucocorticoids released during stress on the gastric mucosa, the effects of glucocorticoid deficiency or occupation of glucocorticoid receptors by the antagonist RU-38486 on the formation of stress-induced gastric erosions were estimated in rats. The reduction of stress-induced corticosterone release (induced by various experimental approaches) markedly potentiated a gastric erosion formation caused by stress and acute corticosterone replacement, mimicking stress-induced corticosterone response, prevented this erosion-potentiating effect. The administration of RU-38486 also caused a significant increase of vulnerability of gastric mucosa to stress action. Thus, an acute stress-induced increase of glucocorticoids has a gastroprotective action against stress-induced gastric injury. We also showed that various ulcerogenic stimuli, similar to stress, induce an increase in glucocorticoid production that in turn helps the gastric mucosa to resist against a harmful action of ulcerogenic stimuli. Gastroprotective action of glucocorticoids may be mediated by multiple actions, including maintenance of glucose homeostasis, gastric mucosal blood flow, mucus production and attenuation of enhanced gastric motility and microvascular permeability. For maintenance of gastric mucosal integrity glucocorticoids may cooperate with prostaglandins. In conclusion, these findings indicate that activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system could be considered as a significant gastroprotective component of brain-gut axis


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