The Hashimoto's Doctor

Brain health depends on gut health


Why do I seem to struggle so much with brain fog, anxiety, and depression?


Many factors can underlie these symptoms, however one of the most common is poor digestive health. The gut and the brain are intimately connected and poor digestive health can lead to poor brain health and related symptoms.

Leaky gut leads to leaky brain

You may have heard of leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. This is when the lining of the digestive tract becomes porous and allows undigested foods, toxins, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. These pathogens trigger the immune system to release inflammatory compounds, increasing the risk for food sensitivities, inflammation, pain, and autoimmune disease.

Another consequence of leaky gut is that it eventually leads to leaky brain. In other words the protective lining of the brain, called the blood-brain barrier, also becomes porous, allowing harmful pathogens into the brain.

Leaky brain leads to damage and symptoms

When these pathogens slip through a porous blood-brain barrier into the brain, the brain’s immune system reacts. This brain-based inflammation damages neurons—brain fog is a common symptom of brain inflammation. A leaky blood-brain barrier has also been associated with a multitude of psychiatric symptoms, including depression and anxiety.

Gluten is especially problematic

Research shows the effects of gluten on the brain to be especially problematic. Studies link gluten to many brain-based disorders, including autism, ADD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

Gut issues not always obvious when brain under attack

Research shows the majority of people whose brains are affected by gluten have no digestive complaints. In fact of those whose gluten sensitivity manifests neurologically, only one-third suffer from any disease of the intestinal tract.

Repairing the gut helps repair the brain

The good news is that both the gut and the brain are very responsive to efforts to restore health and integrity. Required is a multi-faceted approach that addresses the many stressors that can cause leaky gut, such as diet, adrenal health, blood sugar balancing, and gut infections.

Research has also shown that specific botanicals and nutritional compounds can help restore the lining of the gut and the brain.

  1. Michael Brown Reply

    This blog is fantastic. You know so much about this subject. I have been suffering with GI inflammation and memory problems for over a year now. I did change my diet, but I started having changes in my bowel movements. Do you think this could be a parasite or stress related? Thanks.

    • bshook Reply


      I’m sorry to hear that you are having these problems. Your symptoms are similar to those of people suffering with both stress and parasites, but without the appropriate testing, history and exam it’s impossible to tell. Many things can cause the symptoms you are reporting, and you should seek treatment so that an accurate diagnosis and treatment if needed, can be started. I’m sorry that I can’t be more specific, but it’s impossible without more information. If I can help you further please let me know.

      Thank you,
      Dr. Shook

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