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The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis

I just came across Chris Kresser’s latest episode of Revolution Health Radio discussing the gut-brain-skin axis, which as a plastic surgeon, I found extremely interesting.

First of all, I’ve been following Chris’ podcast and blog for the last year. He is a pretty smart dude, and his podcasts, in particular, are very intellectual, informative, and quite dense–even for a medical professional. I always learn something from them, and I appreciate his commitment to science. I am not sure why he never became a doctor, as it obvious to me, that he has the smarts to get through medical school. With his commitment to health and prevention using hard science, I think he could have become a huge force on the inside promoting change in the current medical system. Plus, his skills at using the internet to promote himself and more importantly, the important and valuable information he has to share is a lesson for so-called ivory tower intellectuals. They should shudder a bit when they see these new ways of transmitting information, which lessen their tight ‘expert’ hold of dogma and policy.

In any case, the gut-brain axis is something that I have been interested in quite a bit lately because it seems that the the more and more we look at it, a healthy gut may be a one of the most important aspects to a health, and it is sorely overlooked in modern medicine.  In fact, many of the drugs and foods that we ingest work against promoting a healthy gut.

But what’s more interesting to me is that the gut itself has more neurons than the spinal cord, and plays a huge role in not only regulating what goes into your body, but what goes into your brain and how it interprets what is going on in your body. There is a great book that talk about the evolution of the gut and brain, and how they occur inversely and synchronously called Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human, which goes over this in detail. it is a very interesting read, for sure.

Interestingly though, it seems humans have known about this connection of the gut and the brain for some time as the terms “I feel it in my gut” or “gut” feeling suggest, and the idea of Chakras in Eastern philosophy seem to suggest a deep connection between the gut and the brain.

Now, in his latest post Kresser has presented some interesting finding regarding how the skin may be involved too. He links a very intersting review article that goes over the ideas behind the gut-brain-skin axis, and how some diseases that involve the gut and brain (such as migraines and depression) also affect the skin. The heartbreak of psoriasis, may in fact, involve a very real heartbreak that you feel in your brain and gut…

In any case, one of the interesting ideas in the review article was the use of probiotics, such as the bugs found in yogurt, ie lactobacillus, to help restore the health of the gut, and subsequently the brain and the skin. There was also mention of probiotic skin creams as well for the treatment of acne, for instance.

Wouldn’t that be interesting if there was a Kefir skin cream?

I am going to really study this topic, as I think it would be wonderful (and safer) to give people high doses of yogurt rather than tetracycline, which permanently stains your teeth, promotes antibiotic resistance, and upsets your stomach, or worse yet use acutane, which is toxic and teratogenic (causing birth defects) and require that the patient be on birth control during the time of its use.

No thanks…I’ll take the yogurt please!

4 Responses to The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis

  1. Hi Andrei,

    Thanks for the link and the kind words. In answer to your question…I was accepted to a post-bac pre-med program prior to deciding to study Chinese Medicine instead. Early on my plan was to do exactly as you suggest: change the system from the inside out.

    But what I realized then (and what is even more clear now) is that I would not have become who I am today had I chosen to attend medical school and travel the conventional route. I simply would not have had the time, support or freedom to do the research and exploration I’ve been able to do over the past several years – not to mention develop and promote my blog, podcast and private practice.

    The trade-off is that I may never be taken “seriously” by the segment of the population that believes you have to have MD or PhD after your name to be credible. Fortunately, that’s a relatively small group these days and one I’m not particularly concerned with. There are plenty of open-minded doctors like yourself (and I have several physicians as patients), and I’d rather spend my energy talking to them and the laypeople who are so hungry for this information.

    I’m always glad to encounter physicians that are open to these concepts. Keep up the good work!

    Warm regards,
    Chris

    • You are doing really innovative things, Chris. A lot of doctors could learn from you. Right now, from my perspective, a lot of doctors are simply frustrated with not being able to connect with their patients and establish a meaningful doctor-patient relationship because so many outside forces drive both doctor and patient apart. It’s going to take guys like you on the ‘outside’ and many guys on the ‘inside’ to make changes that are meaniingful. Right now, the current medical system is the definition of unsustainable, and though some things are great, even those things are used as a ‘profit-center’ and are overutilized. I appreciate your work. I learn a lot too.

  2. Thanks for the post. I’ve been following Chris for a while as well and totally agree with your assessment. He has certainly challenged my education, thoughts, and beliefs as well. I’m working on a site with information along this line as well – http://drchadedwards.com – but certainly have a lot of work to do.

    • Yes, Chris has a found an innovative way to integrate media and treatment, so that they are not separate things. So far, my doctor life and the internet work I do are 2 different things. I would like to meld them more and more. Chris certainly is a good model for this.

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