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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Healing Mental Health through the Gut

Feb 26, 2021 06:35PM ● By Sheila Shea
Mental illness is reversible, and one can heal through nutrition and coping skills. Mental health encompasses social and emotional behavior. Here, we’ll focus more specifically on three mental health issues: Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders and eating disorders.  
When the gut heals, the mind heals. That’s what both Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and Elaine Gottschall found in their studies and case histories. The focus of Gottschall’s nutritional healing is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and her program, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). One of her daughters had ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD. Campbell-McBride developed the gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) to heal her son, who was autistic. She has since published several books, including Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and last year, Gut and Physiology Syndrome.
Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, found through research and clinical practice that Alzheimer’s is reversible. His protocol is called ReCODE and uses SCD to promote healing. It attributes Alzheimer’s to three metabolic and toxic threats: inflammation (from infection, diet); suboptimal levels of nutrients, hormones and other synapse-supporting molecules; and toxic exposures (metals and microbes such as mold). In ReCODE, healing the gut is a priority.

Gut-Brain Relationship
In Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet, Gottschall documents the causes and cures of IBD in 1986. She noticed nervous system disorders disappeared when the diet was followed. Mental symptoms disappeared first, then physical. SCD and GAPS are known to heal intestinal inflammation and neurological disorders, including autism, Alzheimer’s and eating disorders.
In intestinal inflammation, the current thin layer of epithelial cells on the gut wall is ruptured and leaking in most people. The ruptured epithelial cells allow lumen intestinalcontents into the blood, to be circulated and to affect the brain.
The brain is a large fatty organ of the nervous system that has tremendous energy needs. When the gut is fed well, the brain begins to heal. The gut contains the enteric nervous system within its four muscular layers. The enteric nerves allow gut muscles to develop peristalsis, the natural muscle movement of the intestines. The gut needs to perform well for the brain to do so.

Influence of Hormones
The hormone insulin stores fat and prevents fat burning. Predominantly, people burn glucose, however, the body has the ability to burn fat. The goal is to open both pathways and develop metabolic flexibility and potential. Insulin and glucose have to be low to allow fat burning and the formation of ketones that feed the body. The brain thrives on ketones and utilizes ketones more efficiently than glucose.
Ketosis is the process in which the liver produces ketone bodies by breaking down fat. Develop metabolic flexibility, by utilizing both pathways. Raise serotonin and rebuild the happy pathway by cooking and coping. Ideally, open all energy pathways in the body.

The 4 Cs
Are we in control of our executive function and decision making when we eat processed foods? Are we biochemically controlled by processed food? According to Dr. Robert Lustig, we are. In Hacking of the American Mind, Lustig lays out his 4 Cs: connect, contribute, cope and cook. Those behaviors raise the hormone serotonin, rather than dopamine, cortisol and insulin. Serotonin is the happiness hormone.
The 4 Cs give us a guideline to heal mental imbalances by developing essential life skills. Developing coping and cooking skills are the goal of this article. People get their mental health under control when they get their nutrition under control and eat real food. Ultra-processed food is phased out and eliminated.

Coping Skills and Techniques
Get into action, even if the action is meditation. Breathing techniques can drive away impurities of the body and of the mind. Get moving and enjoy playing outdoors in the sun. Likewise, be sure to rest. Live within natural circadian rhythms.
Another helpful technique is to stimulate autophagy, an internal natural process that removes accumulated waste in the cells and organs, including amyloid, and recycles or eliminates old waste components. Fasting for 12 to 16 hours daily induces autophagy.
We can develop cooking and coping skills to heal mental illness. Lower insulin and glucose to allow both glucose and fat burning metabolism. Heal inflammation of the gut wall using real food, SCD, GAPS and ketosis.

Sheila Shea is Director of the Intestinal Health Institute and has a 44-year practice in colon hydrotherapy and nutrition. The goal is to heal the intestines and the body naturally. Shea has expertise in metabolic syndrome, is a Certified GAPS Practitioner and Licensed Massage Therapist in AZ and FL. Connect at 520-325-9686 or

Sheila Shea


Sheila Shea MA is Board Certified with 41 years of colon hydrotherapy experience. The Intestinal Health Institute offers intestinal nutritional support and detoxification protocols to a... Read More » 


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