Brain and Memory Care Digestive Health

What you need to know about the gut-brain connection

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: October 3, 2017
the gut-brain connection

The GI tract and it’s role in brain health:

Is it the gut-brain connection or the brain-gut connection that people are talking about? I have been asked this question so I’m not trying to be a wise guy here. Honestly, if you knew how much your GI tract bosses your brain around, you would not believe it. From mood, to immune health, susceptibility to auto-immune diseases and cognitive disorders and more-the gut seems to rule. When it comes to your brain, it’s extremely important as you will soon see. It’s not hard to do a tune up at all. If you have been eating a typical American diet, are not on pre-biotics and good pro-biotics it’s not a matter of if-it’s a matter of when you’ll pay for your “disordered gut” with your mood or concentration or total cognitive powers. I’ll cover exactly what you need to do and make it as simple and “painless” as possible.

the gut-brain connection

We have discussed optimizing your GI tract for several things in this blog such as (obviously) GI tract health and also immune health.

What might not ring a bell is that we discussed it in regards to weight loss. And things like depression and anxiety. Yes indeed-there’s a connection. In a nutshell, as we age and our GI tract is hammered with foods that are processed and/or contain sugar as well as drugs, especially antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, our “microbiome” changes in the GI tract.

This not a good thing because “good bacteria” is replaced with “bad bacteria”-usually toxic E.Coli. This slows down our metabolism so we don’t lose or maintain weight as well as we’d like. It also interrupts production of “happy brain chemicals.” It ends up suppressing the immune system. It is likely a “big player” in why we get auto-immune diseases. And more. But today, we’re talking about the gut-brain connection so let’s focus on that. If you optimize the GI tract correctly as I will describe below, you can get “everything” back to normal.

As a quick review, we know when we heal bloating, constipation, fix a leaky gut  and all digestive disorders that we boost the immune system, improve our mood and speed up weight loss as just noted. The mechanisms for doing this are all discussed in other blogs. Do understand that even if you have zero symptoms of “anything”- you need your GI bacterial flora called your microbiome optimized.  For all of these reasons. But, again- let’s discuss the brain-gut connection and make sure you’re not inadvertently hurting your brain health.

How your gut bacteria can harm your brain

Research proves: there are gut microbes which specialize in fermenting soluble fiber. This is the fiber found in, say, apples for instance. This activity plays an important role in preventing leaky gut — a condition in which toxins are allowed to migrate from your gut into your blood stream. If you don’t have the right microbes and/or fiber, your GI tract lining might be in peril.

The inflammatory response actually starts in your GI tract and then travels to your brain. Brain inflammation then occurs- usually without you being aware. Yes, sometimes there are GI symptoms but oftentimes there is a food intolerance or two that is shrugged off. A “zonulin test” can diagnose a leaky gut. If you have this condition it’s crucial that you heal it up-just refer to the article linked in the previous paragraph. If you want to be sure to keep your gut “in shape” here is how you do it.

Eating for gut health
  1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet plan type of diet. (This eliminates all sorts of foods that can harm your microbiome).
  2. Eat enough fiber (30 gms per day)/or take one of our pharmaceutical grade supplements. I love the MCP as it double as a detox fiber supplement.
  3. Eat raw foods as much as possible. Don’t over-heat your foods and make toxic fats.
  4. Eat fermented foods to “help” your GI tract microbiome . You can make your own or buy fermented vegetables which “last forever”-I get mine from This is one instance I would recommend kefir but recall it is not adequate for pro-biotics. Fermented veggies are good pre-biotics if not “processed” and “preserved”. Always check your labels. If you eat enough fermented foods, you don’t need pre-biotics.

The real gut-brain connection:

Your GI tract is increasingly thought of as (don’t laugh!)- your second brain. Yes, I’m sure your first impulse is to start thinking of people for whom this seems to “apply” but that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about functionality.

The quality, quantity, and composition of the bacteria in your GI tract does influence the function of your brain. There are many studies involving autistic children who do indeed have different GI tract microbiomes than non-autistic children. In fact, the studies are jaw-droppingly convincing.

Dr. David Perlmutter  who is famous for his book  “Grain Brain” explores the connection between GI tract  health and degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s in his book, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life. It’s great! I’m proud to call him a colleague of mine.

The main “idea” if I were to sum up all of the research about this topic is as follows. GI tract bacteria help maintain the integrity of your GI tract lining. Many of the factors that affect permeability of the blood-brain barrier are similar to those that affect the permeability of the GI tract. This is whyleaky gut” can lead to neurological diseases. It has been implicated in everything from autism to depression to MS to Alzheimer’s! Even short term memory loss can improve if you clean up your gut.

It amazes me that the bulk of the medical community is unaware of this not-all-that-uncommon syndrome called leaky gut. So now let me give you the three steps to get your GI microbiome in order, assuming that you have cleaned up your diet as above and you aren’t taking toxic medication and you don’t have distressing GI symptoms. Minor GI symptoms should clear up with this “routine.”  Please note that if you do have leaky gut, you will need to do a lot more than what is listed in this particular article.

Getting your gut in shape

I laughed to myself as I typed this because ten years ago “getting your gut in shape” would have been part of a weight loss recommendation. We have come so far now- and you all know it’s not about eating commercially prepared sugar-laden yogurt, right? Right. Here’s the real deal.


Let’s  clear toxic bacteria and yeast (candida) with a 2-part spray detox system. You’re looking for colloidal silver and zeolite sprays.  You will use the “colloidal silver spray” to do a lot of the work before the pre-biotics are used (step 2) to kill a lot of the “pathogens” which are just making your GI tract dysfunctional. This is just 10 quick under-the-tongue sprays. You’ll next use the zeolite spray for heavy metals and other toxins which aid and abet the “bad work” of the GI fungal and bacterial pathogens. This is another 10 sprays. You do this 2x a day. It takes all of 2 minutes.

I know of some other Physicians who believe in cleaning up the microbiome don’t put this step in their protocols, but I have found many patients and clients who have small bowel intestinal overgrowth (SIBO) and candida. I have also had my fair share of experience with people who have gluten intolerance due to mold, yes mold- household mold. And off-the-wall things like that. So it’s just easier to do a clean-up of toxins and “junk” in my opinion. Why would you not want to do a “GI detox?”


Now we want to  set up an environment where good bacteria can take over the bad bacteria. This is where “the public” doesn’t understand the pre-biotic connection. Often, people take pro-biotics which can never “set up shop” without the pre-biotics given either first or simultaneously. Pre-biotic supplements contain viral phages which also knock out the toxic bacteria. My favorite prebiotic is one that tastes incredible, doesn’t cause stomach upset, and is a tasty sweet daily treat you can eat AND you’re not “cheating”! It is 140 cals , stevia sweetened, made paleo (low heat) and tastes like a Mounds bar-yum! Or you can eat 2 servings of fermented foods or take a pre-biotic-pro-biotic capsule twice daily along with your full pro-biotic-up next.


You need the right pro-biotics. This means: refrigerated, and with enough different “good” bacterial strains and counts. The research is varied on exactly how many strains and counts you should have. The bulk of the literature suggests that you need about 7-10 strains with 10 B total organisms. I would lean towards the high end for the first two months for pre-biotic and pro-biotic dosing. I would also consider taking a saccharomyces boulardii lyo probiotic-AKA brewer’s yeast, as the literature is showing that it is GI protective and helpful in certain gastrointestinal disorders. It’s available by prescription as the drug “Florastor” and online as a more pure version.

Lastly after 2 months of this, if you have no residual GI tract symptoms, you can switch to (simply) a twice daily pre-pro-biotic capsule, continuing your other healthy habits. You should see an improvement in mood and cognition. I’m not saying that the gut-brain connection is necessarily the entire answer but for many-it’s a good part of the answer. If you do a good “cleanup” like this and still have mood, cognitive, or other symptoms please check with your doctor to see what else can be done. Feel free to contact me as well.

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