Did you know that when the gut lining is damaged (as in leaky gut), you can also have a condition called leaky brain? This is not at all uncommon these days and it’s why so many experts suggest avoiding dietary excitotoxins. Excitotoxins is a term that refers to certain amino acids that excite brain cells, causing the cells to die.
In the brain, amino acids act as brain chemical messengers. This means that when we eat foods with protein, once the protein breaks down into amino acids, those amino acids become communication molecules in the brain. Some of these amino acids excite brain cells and others calm them.
The key is Balance!
When you hear about excitotoxins, this typically refers to the amino acids: glutamate, cysteine and aspartate. If you have a leaky gut (a permeable gut lining), it’s possible that you also have a leaky brain (permeable blood brain barrier or brain protector). If this is the case, excitotoxins may present a real challenge for you.
Prepared foods containing excitotoxins may not present as great a problem if you have:
- Adequate amounts of magnesium, energy (e.g., no adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue, thyroid issues) and antioxidants – these all protect the brain from excess excitatory amino acids.
- A healthy blood brain barrier – This is the circulatory system of the brain. The blood vessel walls allow certain necessary items to pass (like vitamin A and vitamin C) and keep offenders out. Dr. Russel Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, suggests that infants and even children up to adolescent age, do not have a fully developed blood brain barrier, which can make them more susceptible to excitotoxins in food. Adults with leaky gut are also more susceptible and more likely to have a leaky blood brain barrier. One way to test this is to take GABA (an amino acid referred to as “nature’s valium”) when you are stressed or wound up. If you feel calm within 30 minutes after taking GABA, you likely have a leaky blood brain barrier. GABA is perfectly fine for most people to take and it’s fine to use if it works, but it does indicate that you have a leaky blood brain barrier and may benefit from a gut-healing protocol.
Unfortunately, with diets high in GMO and processed foods and mineral-depleted soil, we are finding that a lot of people today do not have adequate levels of magnesium, energy and antioxidants. We are also seeing a high incidence of leaky gut and therefore, leaky brain.
Foods to Avoid
Here are the foods to avoid if you are having mood issues, low enegy, leaky gut, food allergies, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorder or insomnia:
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener, NutraSweet)
- Autolyzed yeast
- Boullion or processed stock and broth
- White vinegar
- Brewer’s yeast
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
- Plant Protein Extract
- Sodium Caseinate
- Calcium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract
- Textured Protein
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
- Soy protein isolate whey, whey protein isolate
- Protein concentrate
- Carrageenan enzymes
- Labels that say natural flavoring or natural spices
- Malt extract, malt flavoring
- Modified food starch, corn starch
- Citric acid
Be Careful With These Healthy Foods
Foods that are considered very healthy, but may cause challenges for people with leaky gut and leaky blood brain barrier:
- Umami foods
- Fermented foods and fermented protein foods
- Bone Broth (start with meat stock – broth simmered for 1.5 to 3 hours only, then build up as the broth helps your gut heal)
If you eat foods like this and notice physical symptoms or energy, emotion or mood symptoms, you may want to consider a gut-healing protocol. Neuroscientists are beginning to realize that healing the gut helps heal the brain!
Are you eating these foods?
Have you noticed that GABA works for you?
What questions do you have about gut health, brain health or excitotoxins?
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