Do you remember the game Mouse Trap? In that game, players would assemble portions of a ramp system where, when complete, a ball would roll through different devices which would then trigger other devices, creating a chain reaction which finally led to the fake mouse getting trapped by a cage that would be dropped on it. The pieces had to be assembled in a way that all the devices would trigger in sequence for the player to win. The chain reaction was delicate and easily thrown off, making the game challenging. And the variety of ways the reaction could be set up made each the game different every time it was played.

You are a living, breathing set of chain reactions. Some of them are critical to life, but many are subtle in their affect on your health. Some are relatively simple, where A leads to B which causes C. Some are multi-path, where A may lead to D through through B or C. Then there is the matter of degree, where some A leads to some B, and more A leads to more B. All the possible interactions make your body much more complicated than Mouse Trap!

The most complex chain reactions involve your brain., which is your master control center. Some of your brain’s controls are basic cause and effect: for instance, your brain will increase your pulse when you exercise. But many decisions have a voluntary component, such as thirst: you get a strong urge to drink, but you still can choose to ignore the urge. As your need for hydration increases, your thirst becomes more intense. Your brain also has a reward system, which urges you to take some action and then makes you feel good when you do, or bad when you don’t. This reward system is quite powerful, as any one who is addicted to something can tell you. Even small cravings and desires can be hard to ignore. If you’ve ever tried to go on a diet, you understand that all too well.

In fact, digestion is arguably the most complex chain reaction system in your body. It works on both voluntary and involuntary processes, birthed from both conscious and subconscious thoughts, and to make matters even more complicated, the digestive process takes a lot of input from something in you that isn’t part of your body: your gut flora, also known as microbiota. This massive collection of microbes that resides throughout your intestinal tract does some of your digestion work for you when you have the right microbes but can also spew out toxins when you have bad bacteria in your gut. The microbiota can even “talk” to your brain through biochemical signals even though these microbes aren’t technically part of your body.

Unfortunately most of us have some degree of digestive trouble. If you have excess gas, bloating, or intestinal pains, you obviously have digestive issues. But if you are overweight, have autoimmune problems, are depressed, or have cardiovascular issues, you likely have digestive issues as well. Digestion is clearly central to nutrition, as every cell in your body needs good nutrition to optimize your level of health. The complex set of chain reactions in your gut-brain system, where your brain and gut are talking to each other and making decisions about your eating and digestion, are not functioning optimally and may even be massively out of balance. Some of the chain reactions may be downright negative and harmful to your health.

Gut-brain axis
What you think about obviously affects your digestion. When you are scared or worried, your stomach feels like it is tied in knots and your digestion is clearly impeded. So you know that your brain is sending orders to your digestive tract. But you may not know that the reverse is equally true: your gut talks to your brain and strongly influences it. What you eat, if bad, can quickly sap your energy, make you feel upset, depressed, anxious, or angry, or may set the stage for future maldigestion, especially when it discourages good microbiota and promotes bad. Your gut flora provides a sort of momentum to your digestion, where good flora helps your next meal digest and bad flora resists good digestion later. Bad flora causes trouble directly by sending out toxins, but they also cause negative, dischorant signals to be sent to the brain.

So it is vital, if you want good health, that you get the whole set of chain reactions revolving around your gut-brain communication into top form. Like of the top of a pyramid which is much smaller than the base, there are a lot more ways you can mess up this communication than there are to improve it. Especially in modern society, where good food isn’t nearly as popular as junk food, and most of what society considers to be good food is mediocre at best, it goes against the grain to eat well. But reality is reality, regardless of how we try to say otherwise, and your body won’t operate well if you don’t treat it well. But there is good news: eating well promotes more good eating. Good food reinforces your desire for good food. This may not happen immediately, but after your microbiota, your habits, and your reward system have all been re-tuned, you will find your desire for bad food reduces significantly. You can make a lifestyle change that sticks.

Let’s take a closer look at how the gut-brain axis works with good food. This was studied by researchers at the University of Leipzig Medical Center, Leipzig, Germany, published in Gut, who developed a human trial to see the chain reaction that would cause the participants to desire less bad food, and thereby improve their diets with the approval of their brain reward systems. In this study, participants were divided into those who were eating 30 grams per day of plant fiber (which equates to around 4-5 cups of raw vegetables, or closer to 10 cups of leafy greens), and the control group eating a typical low fiber diet. Their research uncovered the following chain reaction in those eating the plant fiber:

  1. Participants outside the control group received 30 grams of plant fiber per day.
  2. Their microbiota shifted, with certain bacteria such as Bifidobacteriaceae being increased — these are SCFA (short chain fatty acid)-producing bacteria.
  3. Participants showed decreased brain activation towards high-caloric wanted food stimuli in the ventral tegmental area and right orbitofrontal cortex.
  4. Participants showed changes in more than 60 functional signaling pathways of the gut-brain axis.

To explain their findings: first, the gut flora that produces SCFAs multiplied. These bacteria ferment the dietary fiber and create the short chain fatty acids. SCFA’s support the intestinal epithelia cells, which are the cells lining the inside of the gut. These protects the intestinal linings against “leaky gut”, which would allow food particles to illicitly pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. But they also affect activation of certain areas of the brain that communicate through specific neurotransmitters.. The brain then signals less desire for high calorie and salty foods, urging the participants to eat less bad food and more good food, perpetuating the cycle.

In case you think it is no big deal when you increase production of SCFAs, consider the following research. SCFAs increase the immune T-cells and function, and decrease many inflammatory cytokines, according to a review study from the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This study highlights the value of sufficient SCFAs in the gut and the dangers of insufficient fiber to produce those SCFAs. Allergies, inflammatory diseases, and even various cancers are linked to the absence of the gut lining protection of SCFAs. “The mechanisms by which SCFAs influence immunity and gut homeostasis are varied; they include stimulation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), such as GPR43 or GPR41; inhibition of histone deacetylases (and hence, gene transcription changes); and induction of intracellular metabolic changes.” Their research suggests that avoidance of many Western diseases might be as simple as high fiber intake throughout life. But as we saw from the first study, it’s much easier to maintain such a diet if you are having your brain’s reward system assisting you, making you want to maintain the diet.

There is virtually universal agreement that everyone needs plenty of fiber. Animal products simply don’t contain this fiber, so they are useless (at best) in protecting your gut through SCFAs. Fiber comes from plants. There is artificial fiber, an imitation of the real thing, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the value of plant fiber is verified by the imitations. But they contain none of the nutrition value of plants. Fruit is a special problem; while it contains plenty of fiber and nutrients, most fruit contains lots of sugar as well. This is unfortunate, but high sugar destroys and overwhelms the positive value of the fruit. Low glycemic fruit is OK, but rare in today’s supermarkets except for lemons and limes. If you stick to raw green leafy vegetables, other fresh vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds, you get everything: fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, intake of probiotics that come with the unprocessed plants, and good gut-brain communication to help you continue desiring that diet.

Don’t just squeak by
Your alternative: go with the standard American diet with its addictive sugary and salty foods, with low nutrition and constant immune system inhibition. Which sounds better? The healthy diet is far from hard, it just requires some adjustment. Fortunately, your brain will affirm your choices if you are consistent. You win — you trap the mouse (good health) by promoting the right chain reactions.

The wide path leads to destruction. The narrow path may be a bit lonelier, but your health is worth it.

 

Dr. Nemec’s Review

This German study was quite interesting. To sum it up it states the following:

  1. If you eat green leafy vegetables in the raw, uncooked state, you get the highest percentage of fiber, along with the highest percentage of phytonutrients, and the best bacteria growing in your intestinal tract that not only affects physical health, but mental-emotional health also.
  2. The green leafy vegetables and fiber coming from these low glycemic index raw plant fibers produce the highest amount of short chain fatty acids in the intestinal tract. This increases cytotoxic T-cell function, which is one of the most important arms of your immune system to kill bacteria, viruses, and all pathogens, including cancer cells.
  3. The other double benefit of the raw green vegetable fiber is it increases the anti-inflammatory cytokine production. These are the biomolecules that the immune cells make to talk to each other. They tell each other to turn on or turn off the pro-inflammatory cytokines that are necessary in an all-out attack of the immune system against a pathogen, but also they drive the extremely necessary turning on of the anti-inflammatory cytokines that tell the immune system when enough is enough, shutting them off, thus stopping inflammatory cycle.

You are the signals
The hundred trillion cell community called “you” is totally controlled by signals — signals from the brain to all the hundred trillion cells via electrical signals sent through the nervous system, and signals sent from the the brain as secreted biochemicals called neurotransmitters. So the brain is the master controller of the community. It has the greatest influence at the cellular level and that influence is sent to the cells by electrical impulses and neurotransmitter biomolecule production. You could say the brain is the most important controller of your body. You can look at this pathway as A produces B.

The gut-brain body
This pathway supersedes A produces B because in actuality, A produces B, which then produces C, where A are the messages from the intestinal tract, which then communicate to B (the brain cells) which then communicate to the hundred trillion cells of the body via C.

Do you understand the importance of what was just stated?

Your intestinal tract actually tells your brain what to do and then your brain tells your body what to do. This means what you eat affects the health of the hundred trillion cell community as much as, if not more than, what you think!

You have to really ponder this.

Everyone has to move from the old thinking of food is just calories, that it’s just fuel and it doesn’t make a difference what type of gas you put in the gas tank as long as you have gas in the tank. That was the old school idea supported by comments like: “I feel great”, “I have a cast-iron stomach”,” I can eat anything and it doesn’t bother me.”

Stop the generational lie
Most people eat and live the way they’ve been trained from childhood. Most children were introduced to sugar, sweets, unhealthy fats, and excessively protein-laden diets early in life. Our parents just saw food as fuel — nothing more. Well contrary to that belief, food choices actually control your entire health and life, including your mental-emotional state. As the father of medicine said: “Let your food be your medicine” — not simply your fuel but your medicine.

Addiction and anxiety gone
What is the source of an addiction? What is the source of anxiety and depression?

That’s not difficult to determine: just look at what’s given to counter anxiety and/or depression. The number one prescription for mental-emotional disorders is SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.) These work on only one type of molecule and that is the neurotransmitter serotonin. What the medication does is increases the level of serotonin at the cellular level — so in effect it increases a particular neurotransmitter serotonin which calms the anxiety and can minimize the depression. The problem with this approach is that the medication is extremely unnatural and causes permanent serotonin deficits, which can lead to severe reactions of anxiety and depression — even suicide.

There is another way
Instead of trying to short circuit the natural flow of balance, harmony and homeostasis with a prescription medication that has up to 500 side effects and in the long term can do more damage than good, why don’t we explore the possibility of balancing the neurotransmitters naturally, the way they were supposed to be balanced?

The first way to do this, as this German study showed us, is through your diet. Simply by eating what you were designed to eat does this: leafy green vegetables which are high in phytonutrients, high in alkalinity, high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and high in the exact fiber in the exact form that will grow the exact type of bacteria in the gut that will cause the gut to communicate to the brain the exact messages that not only alleviate depression, anxiety, and depression, but also reverse addictions to the negative foods. Instead they communicate cravings for the foods that restore the highest level of health!

Can it get better than this?

The new addiction
Probably one of the most important take-home points of this study is this: The brain, when fed the ideal diet of these leafy greens grow the beneficial bacteria that produce short chain fatty acids which then send the signals to the brain to be programmed to eat these health promoting foods via proper neurotransmitter production. So eating good food perpetuates eating more good food. Now you’ve been addicted to the food that brings balance to your choices, to your mind, emotions and body.

What you eat is what you think and who you are!

So let us let go of the old program that our parents gave us and their parents gave them — that food is meant for fuel and for addictive pleasure. And let us grab hold of the new program that states food controls your thoughts, your emotions, your choices, and your level of health at the cellular level.

So start eating your leafy greens today. Start eating spinach, kale, collard, broccoli, dandelion, and romaine today and you’re on the way to a balanced gut, a balanced brain, and a balanced body.

Let your food be your thoughts, your choices, your emotions and your body.

(1) Medawar E, Beyer F, Thieleking R, Haange SB, Rolle-Kampczyk U, Reinicke M, Chakaroun R, von Bergen M, Stumvoll M, Villringer A, Witte AV. Prebiotic diet changes neural correlates of food decision-making in overweight adults: a randomised controlled within-subject cross-over trial. Gut. 2024 Jan 5;73(2):298-310. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2023-330365. PMID: 37793780; PMCID: PMC10850731.

(2) Tan JK, Macia L, Mackay CR. Dietary fiber and SCFAs in the regulation of mucosal immunity. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2023 Feb;151(2):361-370. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2022.11.007. Epub 2022 Dec 19. PMID: 36543697.  https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(22)01565-2/fulltext