We have so much more to learn and explore about the mind, body, and nutrition. More studies to conduct, research to examine, and people to educate! Not one thing will work for another dog because every dog is unique.
By far favorite thing to research and continually explore is the mind-gut-immune connection. But why are these links important and what does it have to do with our dogs?
What Is The Gut Biome?
The gut biome is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that lives in the intestinal tract. The good bacteria that live in the gut play a key role in digesting foods, absorbing and synthesizing (creating) nutrients.
An undiverse biome creates a welcome environment for pathogenic bacteria to thrive. This is where nutrition plays a huge role.
Feeding a fresh whole food diet ensures to keep the microflora thriving.
Since 70% of the immune system lies in the gut, feeding foods and nutrients that support the body are vital to creating a thriving canine.
Disturbing The Gut Flora
The starches, sugars, carbs, and legumes disturb the gut lining and create inflammation. When the body is inflamed it directly correlates with the gut. Since 70% of the immune system, it holds a very important function. Inflammation in the gut causes cells to separate. This allows food antigens to fall into bloodstreams, also known as leaky gut syndrome. An antigen can look like a structure of the body’s tissue protein and can cause autoantibodies (cause of autoimmune diseases). When the gut is compromised, chronic illness sets in. This is why pets who have skin issues, allergies, diabetes, bloat, arthritis, hypothyroidism, gingivitis, and cancer usually lead a life with a poor diet which directly correlates with the microbiome.
GMO foods also play a role in disrupting the gut. Although GMOs have benefited agriculture and the economy, they have caused downsides in the creation. Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide. With the effects of GMO food not yet completely understood, herbicides used on these foods is something we can look at. Glyphosate is a herbicide that speeds the plant's ripening time. In 2017, the World Health Organization announced that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic". Studies also have been conducted showing the negative effects of glyphosate on the microbiome, changing long-term changes to the microbiome. Glyphosates inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria causing dysbiosis. Glyphosate has also been linked to gluten intolerance, synthesis of amino acids, and building resistance in pathogenic bacteria.
*Dysbiosis: disturbance of microbiome due to the overcrowding of harmful/pathogenic bacteria
In a recent study done by the University of Caen, rat's feces were analyzed to determine their microbiome health. The three concentrations of Roundup used was: 0.1 ppb, 400 ppm, and 5,000 ppm. There was a rise in the Bacteroidetes family S24-7, while the Lactobacillus bacteria family decreased in population. When pathogenic bacteria overcrowd, it allows for chronic illness to set in. Illnesses such as dysbiosis, including inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. Even less commonly associated gut diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, obesity, and autism.
The Gut Mind Connection
More and more studies are showing the irrefutable fact that the gut and mind are complexly intertwined.
The way the gut directly correlates with the brain is still foggy. But here is a rough outline of what we know.
"1. Microbes interact with immune cells in the gut, prompting the cells to make cytokines that circulate from the blood to the brain.
2. Microbes interact with gut cells called enteroendocrine cells that produce neuroactive molecules and peptides. These molecules interact with the vagus nerve, which sends signals to the brain.
3. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters and metabolites like butyrate. These circulate to the brain, where some of them are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, and others alter cell activity at the barrier itself.
4. In 2018 researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported at a meeting that they had found gut bacteria in human brain tissue. The study has not yet been published, and skeptics abound, but it suggests that microbes might somehow be making their way into the brain."
Until about 2004, the speculation that gut health was connected to mental health in humans was ridiculed. Now we know a little more, with so much to still explore!
A study was conducted where rats were given Lactobacillus and the animal's stress reduced and brain chemistry was altered. When animals (and us) have a diverse and healthy microbiome, the organism will display less stress, anxiety, and depression behaviors and changes the number of protein receptors produced in the brain.
John Hopkins Medicine, Link Pasricha says research suggests that digestive-system activity may affect cognition (thinking skills and memory), too. ... “This involves interactions between nerve signals, gut hormones, and microbiota—the bacteria that live in the digestive system,” Pasricha says.
Harvard Health "A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected."
Studies are finding that people with IBS are more prone to depression and anxiety. Research also suggests that the digestive tract may affect cognitive thinking & memory. There is so much more research to be done in this field and I am ecstatic to continue exploring. The link is there and clear.
Gut & The Immune System
The immune system is a group of molecules and cells that protect the body from disease by monitoring and maintaining homeostasis. Any foreign substances are viewed as a threat and cause a defensive reaction.
The immune system can be broken down into two categories: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
The innate is the first line of defense. It is made of a physical and chemical barrier, white blood cells, and blood proteins that commence inflammation.
* Cytokines: signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis.
The physical and chemical barriers are made of the cells that line the surfaces of organs and blood vessels, as well as the antimicrobial chemicals they make. These cells are what are known as epithelial barriers. The cells of their (and our) innate system patrol the body in search of threats such as microbes. When a foreign matter is found, it is then targeted and destroyed.
The adaptive immunity has a more complex job. When the innate immunity fails to kill the threat, adaptive immunity steps in. Adaptive immunity is controlled by cells called lymphocytes.
*lymphocytes: white blood cells that are also one of the body's main types of immune cells. These cells are made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue.
The 2 major communities of lymphocytes are B cells and T cells.
B cells are involved in the humoral immunity controlled by the production of antibodies. *Antibodies: also called immunoglobulins are Y-shaped proteins that are produced by the immune system to help stop intruders from harming the body. Antibodies in the blood and mucous recognize microbial antigens which trigger an immune response to target and eliminate the threat.
T cells are affected by cell-mediated immunity. This destroys any microbes that are not accessible to the antibodies. When a microbe has infected cells and withstand other immune defenses, cell-mediated immunity comes in. T-cells utilize cytokines as messenger molecules to send chemical instructions to the rest of the immune system to destroy the threat. On the cell membrane's surface, lymphocyte receptors are able to detect around 1 million antigens.
When an antigen is detected, a domino effect of immune responses occur. These lymphocytes will multiply to destroy the threat. After the threat is eliminated, some lymphocytes remain in the body. These are called helper B cells. These cells ensure that is the body is hit with the same antigen again the response quicker, stronger, and better.
The gut acts as a barrier. Allowing good bacteria to enter and isolating microbial antigens. This barrier is created by epithelial cells. The barrier function of the gut depends on the immune system. 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. In this gut, there are at least as many bacteria in the gut biome as on our body. So, a lot. Like. A lot. This system uses bacteria as it's defense. When people think of bacteria they usually have a negative connotation. This is because bad bacteria is the cause of illnesses such as urinary, pneumonia, and meningitis. But this is BAD bacteria, not GOOD!
GOOD bacteria such as lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are healthy strains of bacteria that benefit the microflora. And by positively impacting the microflora, we positively impact the immune system.
The balance between the bad (pathogenic) and good bacteria is mother nature's built-in defense system. When we feed the gut, we feed the immune system as well.
"Our relationship with our gut microbes is a that of a mutualistic symbiosis—we live together and help each other."
The immune system and gut work symbiotically together. By creating a diverse microflora we create a defense against pathogenic bacteria and build resistance to beneficial. These 2 systems constantly regulate, support, and feed off of each other.
In a healthy dog, the immune system promotes healthy growth of beneficial microbes and aids in maintaining a diverse microbiome. In response, the gut produces molecular signals that develop immune cells and fine-tune immune responses. When these systems are at peak condition it builds resistance to pathogenic bacteria, and aids in self-tolerance (the body not reacting harmfully to itself).
When the gut permeability is compromised, it allows pathogenic antigens to take over. The gut is unable to block unwanted antigens and chronic inflammation sets in causing altered immune responses.
Feeding a fresh food diet feeds the gut and immune system. Allowing these 2 critical systems to be in peak performance and destroying whatever pathogen that comes their way.
Feeding the brain-gut-immune
The brain-gut-immune being so complex and intertwined... how do we feed it?
Whole fresh foods and a less toxic world.
Feeding carbs, sugar, synthetic loaded food is no way for these systems to flourish. To support these critical parts, we need to feed real food. How is an organism going to flourish off of refined and processed foods? They won't.
In our toxin submerged modern world it can be difficult to stay away from dangerous toxins. Some examples are antibiotics, chemical flea/tick/heartworm medication, cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, shampoos, artificial fragrances, and more.
Trying to find more natural alternatives decreases their toxic load buildup.
Some easy swaps for a less toxic world
Trading out chemical heart-worm medication for pumpkin seeds and a DIY mosquito spray
Using all-natural cleaning solutions
Essential oils over artificial fragrances
Clean filtered water to ensure there's no fluoride or chlorine
DIY shampoo/natural shampoo
Avoiding antibiotics/vaccines when possible
Best foods for mind-gut-immune support:
Whole fresh food diet
Probiotics: raw goat milk, kefir, colostrum
Prebiotics: dandelion, garlic, bananas, apples
Antioxidants: berries, low glycemic veggies, dandelion, bee pollen, astaxanthin, phytoplankton
Mushrooms: turkey tail, reishi, mushroom blends
Doing the best you can!
Even if you can't do all of these: every step matters. You are your dog's most valuable and passionate health advocate. Small steps make a big difference. Adding any amount of whole fresh foods in and doing small swaps to natural alternatives all adds up. You are making a difference every day. You are part of the changing ever-evolving world and we get to do it with our best 4 legged friends. Step by step we can create a canine that is thriving not just surviving. The mind-gut-immune system connection is just a smaller piece to a bigger puzzle. As always thank you so much for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring!