In 1637, French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes proposed that all living beings are similar to machines.
He claimed we are made up of clockwork mechanisms that function independently of one another.
Descartes argued that our bodies could be taken apart, studied and put back together to gain a better perspective of the larger picture.
This theory, known as reductionism, became the status quo for medical research.
But now, almost 400 years later, doctors are discovering just how interconnected the body’s systems really are.
And the world of medicine could be about to change again …
Discoveries Beyond Descartes
Most recent medical breakthroughs have focused on diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
In comparison, brain disease discoveries have lagged.
That’s because medical researchers have mostly focused on the brain as the sole source of neurological disorders.
Now, with the number of people with neurodegenerative diseases on the rise, researchers are looking for better answers.
Not just answers. But better treatments and, one day, cures.
Descartes’ early findings weren’t incorrect, per se. He just didn’t have the complete picture.
And thanks to new, revolutionary research, we are moving closer to seeing it.
Here’s why now is the time for a "gut check" …
Time for a Gut Check … Literally
Imagine a world without debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
We may be getting closer. That’s because researchers are looking for the cure for brain diseases in the gastrointestinal tract — or simply, the gut.
‘Poor gut health may be a precursor to bigger problems.’
Why is that the best place to look?
You see, inflammation is thought to be the culprit behind nearly every human degenerative condition.
This includes those involving the brain.
Related story: Eat more of this brain-boosting nutrient
Remember, inflammation is the body’s response to infection or injury. It’s easier to detect when we see it or feel it, like when we have joint pain.
But when, say, the lining of our gut is inflamed, we are at risk for a whole host of problems. And we may not even know it.
It’s become clear that a healthy lining in the gut plays a vital role in our overall health.
And researchers are starting to build the case that poor gut health may be a precursor to bigger problems.
Survey Says …
David Perlmutter, one of the top medical researchers on the subject, describes this phenomenon:
"One of the most important elements involved in maintenance of gut wall integrity is the degree of balance and diversity of the various organisms that live within the gut.
"These organisms and their genetic material are collectively referred to as the human microbiome."
Here’s how it tries to keep your gut healthy …
"The microbiome is tasked with shoring up the gut lining and therefore reducing permeability.
"This helps to reduce inflammation in human physiology.
"When the gut bacteria are altered by any number of events — including over usage of antibiotics, exposure to environmental toxins and even inappropriate food choices — the integrity of the gut lining can be challenged."
Side Effect or Contributing Cause?
Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center have started publishing data about the bowel issues associated with Parkinson’s disease.
But those could be a contributing factor rather than a result.
Christopher B. Forsyth and his team recently showed that major gut leakage — also known as "leaky gut" — can occur in Parkinson’s patients.
Their research further reveals that an increase in gut leakiness enhances inflammation.
On top of that, it produces a unique protein called alpha-synuclein. This protein is thought to interact with dopamine, which helps to control voluntary and involuntary movements.
Both are characteristic of this disease.
(The Michael J. Fox Foundation has reportedly donated almost $50 million to research on this protein. You can read more about it here.)
This breakthrough research challenges the notion that brain disease must stem from the brain.
That’s not the only study linking compromised gut-wall integrity to disease.
ALS: Another Brain-Gut Connection
ALS is another neurodegenerative disease that received a lot of attention in the past few years, thanks to the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge."
It is also being linked to poor gut health.
|Image Credit: wikipedia.org|
At the University of California-San Francisco, Rongzhen Zhang’s team came to a similar finding as Forsyth’s team.
That is, just like Parkinson’s, with ALS there is also an increase in gut leakage and inflammation.
Inflammation is a long-associated factor with ALS. (Click here to read Zhang’s research.)
These are just two examples of the groundbreaking research between brain disease and gut health.
The research looks promising, but we are only just beginning to understand the impact of gut bacteria on our brains and bodies.
Let’s hope progress and cures for these life-altering diseases come speedily. It would be a giant step forward for us all.
Happy and healthy investing,