The Gut Brain Connection

Tom Staverosky has been interested in the gut brain connection for a long time.  He and James Sensenig, ND, have put their time into a product for migraine that's based on the connection, called ForeverWell.

I've been learning more about the gut brain connection myself, and I'm increasingly convinced that the basics - diet, exercise, sleep, and so on, have a lot more to do with migraine than we might at first think.  So I asked Tom to clarify a little more why the ForeverWell products were made the way they are.

When I got his answer, I was impressed by the amount of thought that had gone into creating this particular product.  However, ForeverWell is not alone in its research of the digestive system and it's relation to the rest of your health.  You'll find that many others that agree with the basics of the gut brain connection, as described in Tom's letter:

Tom Staverosky
on the gut brain connection

The Second Brain

Hi James,

I realize that when some people read our information they get the sense that we are saying that migraine is "caused" by digestive dysfunction or nutritional problems.  This sense that we are trying to say that if only people ate properly they would not get migraine is not accurate.

What I want people to understand is that we agree that migraine is neurological in its origins.  However what many people, including most doctors, sadly, do not realize is the level of neurological function that occurs in the digestive system.  This is where the work of Dr. Gershon (author of The Second Brain) and others is truly opening new doors of possibility.

There is an ever increasing level of information pointing to serotonin and its production and/or regulation as playing a significant role in migraine.  When I read in The Second Brain that 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut and not the brain I about fell over.  Furthermore all the neurotransmitters that regulate brain activity also play important roles in the enteric nervous system.

It is obvious to most migraine sufferers that there is a gastrointestinal aspect to migraine.  Whether you look at the nausea that many suffer, the acknowledgement that certain foods, drinks or additives can trigger migraine or the recent research on gastric stasis in migraine one cannot avoid the fact that there is a gut brain connection to migraine.

The Second Brain also gave me a clear picture of how little we truly understand about the role of any individual neurotransmitter let alone how they interact with one another.  What is the key to keeping them in balance?  What if the body is not making them in the proper numbers at the proper time to allow the neurological system to operate smoothly?  When you start asking these sorts of questions you become dismayed at the lack of understanding we have.

Researching the gut brain connection

That being the case I was inspired by some of the research and knowledge I had acquired during my 15 years of study of natural and alternative medicine.  The best doctors, the ones that I have come to realize consistently get sick people well are those that honor the wisdom of the body and believe, as you have learned from my information, that the body is not only capable of healing itself, it is constantly trying to do so.  These doctors see proper digestive function as critical to helping the body to help itself.

It occurred to me that the approaches used by doctors of natural medicine to return the digestive system to proper function would play a significant role in addressing any neurological issues that might also have their roots in the enteric nervous system, the gut brain.

This idea is reinforced by the fairly prevalent believe within natural medicine circles that most chronically ill patients are protein malnourished, not because they are not eating adequate protein, but rather because they are not digesting and absorbing the proteins in their diets.  When you realize that most of the neurotransmitters are peptides (small chain proteins) you begin to see the possibility that protein malnutrition may be playing a role in any neurological condition.  Please recall that all proteins are complex molecules made up of long chains of amino acids, the smallest building blocks of protein.  Small chains of amino acids still linked together are called peptides.  Thus peptides could also be viewed as digested proteins.

The gut brain connection and digestion

Trying to understand how the body digests, absorbs and utilizes protein was a frustrating process.  I thought that would be an area where science and medicine had an extensive amount of information.  Sadly, that is not the case.  The only medical research that considers this issue is the critical care arena.  In critical care they are often tube feeding patients directly into the stomach desperately trying to maintain their nutritional status following, surgery, trauma or other life threatening conditions.  The main focus of the nutritional support effort is to maintain adequate protein input to these patients.

What is absolutely clear from the critical care research is the when comparing intact protein based feeding formulas to amino acid formulas and also to peptide based formulas the best results are consistently obtained from the peptide based formulas.  This research was so compelling that we were determined to create a digestive improvement product that was peptide based.

The other area of research that is essential to understand if you are to support normal function of the digestive system is the role that bacteria play in the digestive processes.  Our digestive tract is populated by billions of beneficial bacteria that help the body digest and absorb the food we eat.  Amongst all the beneficial bacteria are a collection of dangerous bacteria that are kept in check by the good guys.  For a variety of reasons, including dietary choices, use of antibiotics, and environmental factors the balance of good and bad bacteria can swing in favor of the bad guys creating a dysbiosis in the gut.

A wide variety of alternative doctors, and increasing numbers of main stream doctors are now using commercially available probiotic products to help the body return the good bacteria to their dominant role.  Probiotics, like acidopholis in yogurt are the beneficial bacteria.  While the research into which probiotics to use in which conditions if far from conclusive it has become quite clear that supplemental probiotics are essential in returning the gut to normal function.  It is also fairly clear that a probiotic blend is preferential to using a single strand product.

The doctors that are the inspiration for our work at ForeverWell and serve as advisors to our product development work are also big believers in whole food nutrition.  While there is little doubt that individual vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, etc can have therapeutic benefit, whole food nutrition offers the additional value of allowing the body to pick and choose the pieces that it needs.  We believe there is synergy in whole foods that are still not clearly understood.

It seems reasonable to assume that the human organism is an intelligent being and given the proper opportunity it will strive to achieve balance and health.  However if there is a degree of dysfunction in the system than the organism cannot recover simply given whole foods.  This is where the use of predigested whole foods offers exciting possibilities.  We believe that predigested whole foods offer nutrients in the proper form and balance that are immediately available to the body.  This allows the body to trigger its inherent repair and recover mechanisms without having to rely on the digestive process to break the whole foods down.  Predigested whole foods essentially jump start the human organism.

The ForeverWell Foundation Formula
 and the gut brain connection

ForeverWell and the gut brain connection

ForeverWell Foundation Formula is designed to return the digestive system to proper function. The main ingredient is a predigested, small chain peptide based fish powder. The fish powder is whole food nutrition in that all the nutrient value of the fish fillet used as raw material is in the finished product. A gentle biological process breaks the protein down to amino acids and small chain peptides and allows for the removal of water from the tissue. Therefore in addition to the fish protein the product also contains fish oils, vitamins and an outstanding array of trace minerals.

The second ingredient in Foundation Formula is a product we bring in from Australia. This product is a combination of organic grasses and sea vegetables that are gently predigested with a blend of 14 probiotics. These raw materials contain an amazing variety of nutritional components that are available to the body to stimulate repair and recovery. Additionally, the probiotic blend in this product is the best, most bioactive that we have been able to find.

There are two sides to the digestive puzzle. The first is proper gut function which is the focus of ForeverWell Foundation Formula and the second is proper liver function which is the focus of ForeverWell Renew Formula. We could not find predigested whole foods that provided the kind of direct nutritional support to the needs of the liver. What we chose to do instead was to create a supplement that contains the various herbs, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that have been shown to support proper liver function in a food like presentation. Rather than large amounts of one or two ingredients we created a synergistic combination of 21 different ingredients and present them in a form where the body can pick and choose the pieces it needs.

At ForeverWell we want our customers to understand that we are looking at migraine disease in a new way. Our work is deeply based in the science of both natural medicine and modern medical research. What is clear from the work in the expanding field of neurogastroenterology (Dr. Gershon’s study of the enteric nervous system) is that if you have a problem in your head, then you have a problem in your gut. Sadly, the value of this research and the possibilities it suggest are being largely ignored. Most gastroenterologists and most neurologists are still unaware of how interconnected their fields truly are.

Tom Staverosky
Learn more about the gut brain connection

Thanks to ForeverWell and many others, you're likely to hear more about the gut brain connection in the days ahead. Throughout history doctors have been aware of the connection of migraine with the gut, but it's taken us a long time to really consider what that means. The gut brain connection may be the key to understanding why migraine is so wide spread, and how it might be stopped. More and more research is telling us that the gut brain connection is key.

Mr Staverosky's letter about the gut brain connection is used by permission.

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