Have you noticed changes in driving habits, such as more people making U-turns in traffic these days? Does it seem that U-turns are more frequent than a few years ago? Have you noticed other subtle changes in traffic patterns? There’s a simple reason for recent traffic pattern and driver behavior changes: phone map apps and automotive navigation systems.
These apps do not take control of vehicles — at least not yet. They do not replace the vehicle drivers. They simply communicate optional directions which the drivers may decide to follow. Since the drivers request the navigation, they usually do follow the directions given, even if that changes their normal driving patterns. The navigation apps are causing many changes: small side streets in otherwise sleepy neighborhoods are seeing sudden spikes in traffic when the apps signal a traffic obstruction on a nearby primary route, drivers are sometimes routing through school zones during times when kids are outside and close to the road, some drivers are attempting to switch lanes or make a sudden turn when they realize they are about to miss an app-directed maneuver, and of course, drivers are making more U-turns because the app says to do so. Sometimes there is a much easier and safer route available that the app cannot determine, but as drivers are trained to increasingly obey their navigation directions, those alternatives are less often used.
As artificial intelligence improves, eventually even linking in traffic signal data and car-to-car communication, those navigation apps will provide better and safer directions. But with the current technology, drivers must understand that the information provided by the apps is not perfect, and bad signals can sometimes lead to bad driving if the directions are accepted without question. Sometimes the navigation data is simply wrong. The drivers, not the apps, are in control, at least in theory. With so many drivers simply following the navigation instructions you might think that the apps are in control. The apps are merely advisors, and they are not making the final decisions. If you make an unsafe maneuver and get pulled over for a traffic violation, the defense of “my navigation told me to do it” won’t avoid a ticket.
The app and the driver form a partnership. If the driver is driving safely within the rules, and the navigation system is receiving good data, this synergistic partnership works well. If either falters, the partnership is “unhealthy” and bad results occur.
You have a complex communication network which is much more sophisticated than your car GPS communication system, and that system runs throughout your body. This system is so integrated that it is oversimplification to consider portions of it without considering the rest, but certain parts are key systems worth special attention. One such network is the gut-brain axis, where the gut microbiota, the huge colony of microbes throughout the digestive tract, has two-way communication with the brain, forming a synergistic partnership. The brain is the driver and the gut microbes are not in direct control of the body, but their signals can have such a profound effect on the brain that they can impair and even harm the brain. Since the gut microbiota is estimated to be about 39 trillion microbes, they can exert a very strong influence! So strong, in fact, that bad microbiota is implicated in many diseases, such as autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and conditions such as depression and obesity.
We tend to underrate the gut, figuring it is merely responsible for digesting food and providing energy. But the gut and the microbiota within it have many ways of communicating with the brain, and thus the whole body: The first and most obvious is through nutrients, because without a full range of nutrients the brain simply can’t behave optimally. The gut microbes give off metabolites, which are simply chemicals given off in the process of metabolism as the microbiota feeds on whatever is in the gut.
Different foods result in different metabolites. Some metabolites are short-chain fatty acids that stimulate the nervous system, and thus the brain. Some are neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Others, such as histamine, impact the immune system. Much of the immune system resides in gut, so the byproducts given off from the microbiota controls much of the body’s immune function. Bacteria such as lactobacilli use nitrate and nitrite to produce nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow, and stimulating hormone release. Metabolites affect the permeability of the very thin intestinal walls — too much permeability means larger molecules from the gut enter the blood stream — and whether these are toxins or not, they are foreign to the bloodstream and must be neutralized by the immune system. The key avenue for gut-brain communication is the vagus nerve (VN), which is a component of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the “rest and repair” system. So without good microbiota metabolites, building health is a challenge because more tearing down is occurring than rebuilding.
Since there are many ways that the gut microbiota affects and communicates with the brain, and thus the entire body, researchers have attempted to isolate the impact of specific gut microorganisms on the central nervous system (CNS). In a study published in Nature Protocols, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine designed experimental procedures to collect specific metabolites produced by microbiota and determine quantities of each. These techniques allow researchers to determine that certain gut microbes have different impacts on the CNS than others, and confirm the links of unbalanced microbiota to brain diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. They even link negative changes in gut bacteria with anxiety and obesity.
Another research review article, published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, goes into great detail on the impact of gut flora. Initially, gut flora is passed from mother to child. This means that the starting point for the child’s microbiota is inherited, which along with genetics forms an imprint on the child. The mother’s gut health during pregnancy is therefore important to the child. Then, during CNS development and brain maturation, the microbiota influences neural development. Throughout life, the gut flora metabolites influences not only gut permeability, but also brain-blood barrier (BBB) permeability, which can then improve or inhibit brain development. The study also highlights how even mild microbiota-related disruption of vagus nerve function can cause neurodegenerative diseases or gastrointestinal pathologies such as inflammatory bowel disease. They also cite evidence linking activity of certain gut microbes to cancer development.
The inconvenient truth about conveniences
One benefit (and consequence) of our modern technology is the widespread use of GPS navigation. Another is the availability of processed food which replaces the “close to the land” food that earlier generations ate. We are rapidly changing all aspects of life, but our physiology is not following the changes. Instead we find ourselves violating the rules, the primary design criteria, of our bodies, expecting them to conform to our lifestyle changes. The gut-brain axis of communication, the partnership designed to bring our environmental intake via the gut into harmony with the response of our bodies, is not going to adjust positively to a poor diet. Instead, the modern diet is likely to promote harmful, non-synergistic bacteria which will then reverberate through the gut-brain axis to our whole bodies.
We wouldn’t expect to revert back to the days when GPS navigation was not available. Nor is it feasible for all of us live on a farm and live without modern food conveniences. But in each case we are the drivers, not the technology or grocery store shelves. We choose whether to accept or reject a navigation app’s instructions, and we choose what we put into our bodies. GPS has changed the way drivers act on the road, and processed food has created the standard American diet. But you have control.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
The brain and the body are constantly communicating through messages. These messages can be biochemical molecules. They can be inflammatory signals. They can be neurotransmitters, and most importantly, they are energetic and bioelectric signals that travel at the speed of light.
Signals and messages are sent from every cell in the body to each other, but also to the master signal makers, the heart and the mind — these two are co-CEOS of the body. They both run the body by being the strongest signals produced, but of the two the heart signal is over 5000 times stronger than the mind signal.
Well, then you would say that it’s obvious: the heart will control the cells of the body all the time. It doesn’t turn out this way because the heart signal is only 5000 times stronger when it is actively chosen by the driver of the car. Let me restate this: the heart signal is 5000 times more accurate — so imagine you have two GPSs in your car and they’re both giving you information. The mind GPS is the biggest and the loudest but not always accurate, but very easy to follow and very user friendly. On the other hand, the heart GPS is very quiet and very small and most people have never learned how do use it, but when they do it is always perfectly accurate.
So what do people do when they’re in a hurry, what do people do when they’re in the busyness and hectic pace of their day? They choose the easiest navigator, the one that takes the least energy, so 99.9% of the time they choose the mind GPS because they never took the time to learn how to use, to get familiar with, and get comfortable with the heart GPS.
So what messages are being sent by the mind to the body through the brain? And how are these messages affected by the environment?
The messages the mind is primarily sending to the body through the brain are messages of stresses, of fires that need to be put out, so the body is constantly thinking and running under stress to put out all the fires. This is what we call sympathetic nervous system dominant. Your autonomic or automatic nervous system is the division of your nervous system that controls your organ and gland function: sympathetic is the speeding up function; parasympathetic, the slowing down or balancing function. So, when we’re in stress mode, we’re in the sympathetic dominant mode, and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are communicating to the cells of the body through the vagus nerve from the brain to the organs. So the messages the mind sends to the brain, or the heart sends to the brain, go through the vagus nerve down to the organs and glands. If we’re in stress mode, then those messages from the brain to the body through the vagus nerve are sympathetic dominant and are signaling as if running away from a lion to survive. If those messages are instead more heart driven to the brain to the organs through the vagus nerve, these messages are to rest, digest, and heal.
So what the Baylor College of Medicine study showed was that the metabolites made by the intestinal microbiota, primarily driven by the food you eat, greatly communicate to the brain signals that will cause it to be either in stress mode, or rest, digest, and heal mode. What types of foods do you think communicate the latter?
Living raw plant foods. They have good, inherent microbiota within them, they have the enzymes to break down the food within them, and if they are living food, they also have the biophotons, or energy of light, in the food itself.
What a drastic difference in metabolites between living raw plants that are complete in themselves with everything the body needs; versus cooked, denatured, oxidized, free radical forming, and immune overstimulating into inflammatory byproducts foods.
So you’re very definitely a byproduct, mentally, emotionally and physically, of what you eat; so choose wisely those metabolites that are being produced from your food choices so that they are creating an environment to support mental, emotional, and physical health, rather than giving rise to mental, emotional, and physical disease.
Always remember that you’re driving the car. You can listen to a lot of signals and messages, but you have to decide where to go, and your whole body, mind, and emotions depend on the choices you make.
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