Seminar: Understanding the Gut Brain, by Grant Ernhart

By Shane YoungOctober 10, 2013

Gut Health and Rolfing:  How could our gut biome affect our search for balance?

More and more we are hearing about the importance and complexity of the ecosystem within our own digestive tracts. This developing field of knowledge has perked my interest as well and on September 19th I will attend a seminar about this topic in order to get a better picture of the importance of our little probiotic friends and their implications on our overall health. I will be looking to see how gut health and rolfing could support our moving toward a holistic notion of balance.

The Institute for Brain Potential describes the workshop like this:

The enteric nervous system, the gut brain, plays a pivotal role in regulating inflammation, stress, metabolism, appetite and mood. This unique evidence-based program is designed for health professionals working in medical, dental and behavioral settings and allied health professions.

Participants completing this program should be able to:

  • Describe key functions of the gut brain
  • List several ways the gut brain regulates appetite
  • Identify how stress contributes to digestive disorders
  • Describe how inflammation of the gut can affect mood and anxiety
  • List several disorders that can be effectively treated with probiotics

Now, that seems like a pretty hefty list of goals to be ticked off in a short 6 hour seminar, but it all sounds interesting and I am hoping that this workshop can direct me towards other resources. I imagine that the main result of this afternoon will be to set the stage for a general understanding of the topic and I will probably come away with more new questions rather than answers.

I have been an advocate of probiotics for a really long time. I think the first time that I used them was when I was still an athlete on the Biathlon team. I had read an article back then that was exploring the link between gut bacteria and general health. The article was suggesting a link between a healthy gut ecosystem and a stronger immune system. The article really made sense to me, if your gut biome is healthy and balanced then you should be able to properly digest your food and additionally extract all the available nutrients. Conversely, if your system is out of balance and maybe you have an imbalance favoring Candida yeast or some other microbial invader, I just made sense that the waste products of those detrimental organisms would have  an affect on my greater functioning.

Lately, I have been becoming even more interested in how we can naturally bolster the health of our healthy gut bacteria. I recently read Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” and was especially interested in the last section which focused on fermented foods.

According to Pollan and other sources, fermented foods can be found in every world cuisine and have played a crucial role in seeding our guts with vital probiotics and maintaining the health of those organisms and in turn nurturing our own health. Foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and pickles provide us with a combination of bacteria and and undigestible carbohydrates that these little critters need to survive and thrive. As such, I try to include sauerkraut or some other fermented food into my diet daily. Not only have I found that I feel good be trying to support my little gut helpers, but I also really enjoy the strong tastes of these fermented foods and often find they work great as additions to any many course or as additions in my salads. I am even thinking of getting myself a traditional kraut crock and trying to make my own homemade kraut!

Accompanying me on this day of learning will be my friend and paleo-food guru Scott Weise. Scott manages the Ascend Studio but also has his own endeavor going called For Real Food. Scott provides cooked meals for clients from a changing weekly menu as well as personalized cooking instruction. He is great at helping people who feel daunted by the idea of becoming alchemists in the kitchen to demystify the amazing process of turning ingredients into quick, healthy and tasty meals. If you are someone in need of a personal food revolution or have questions about the Paleo diet, Scott is your guy… so get in touch with him.

What is the connection between gut health and rolfing? Good question, I am not sure yet either. I do know that Rolfing® is about balancing the whole structure and perhaps by learning about the importance of balance within our guts I will be able to help clients in new and varied ways. The science seems to suggest that a toxic gut ecology can have wide reaching negative effects on mood, inflammation and overall health. Any of which could be a road bock in our process of finding balance within our lives and our bodies. So stay tuned and we shall see what I learn and how it could potentially be applied within a holistic context which includes Rolfing.


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