The intestine: key to our mental health?



If we look at the statistics, autism is a galloping disease. Gabriel Perlemuter, head of the hepatogastro-enterology and nutrition department at the Antoine-Béclère hospital in Clamart, a university professor, recalls the figures: “In 1996, 4.5 out of every 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. In 2016, it’s 147 out of 10,000. But there is no autism in Africa. For him, the factors are environmental and bacterial. In her book (written with Anne-Marie Cassard, a researcher at Inserm) “Bacteria, friends who want you good. Happiness is in the gut, “he demonstrates the importance of these intestinal microorganisms to bypass the risk of innumerable diseases, from cancer to depression. Really?

In research laboratories, newborn mice have given troubling answers about the role of bacteria on the development and functioning of organs. For example, subjected to stress (separation from the mother), then gavé of a specific bacterium, Lactobacillus fermentum, the baby rat showed an improvement of the alterations of the digestive and cerebral functions induced by this stress, that is to say, unlike his fellow placebos, his intestinal epithelial barrier remained intact and his learning functions were improved. Logically, he should have been upset by this wrenching from his mother, with diminished cognitive and digestive functions. Thanks to this contribution in his tiny intestine, he was able to compensate for the trauma.


The Inserm research director of the TENS unit in Nantes, Michel Neunlist, is formal: “The belly is our second brain. He did not need this study to find out. This specialist from the Institute of Digestive System Diseases has been working on these issues since 1996. “The intestine has its nervous system that is very complex and very dense,” he says. Also, many data confirm the link between gut and brain. That’s it, it’s clear. It can be seen in some autistic children (read our testimonials), but it could also be observed in other brain diseases, such as Parkinson for example. Michel Neunlist: “Fifteen years before the onset of the disease, the individual often has premotor symptoms, decreased smell, sleep disorders, digestion, mainly constipation. Digestive disorders may result from early-onset or increased sensitivity of the enteric nervous system to the factors that trigger the disease. More scientifically, he explains that Parkinson’s could develop in the manner of prion disease. A protein involved in neurotransmission, alpha-synuclein, would become abnormal.


The reasons would be various: “Inflammatory or oxidative stress, viruses, bacteria, some pesticides, such as rotenone, could metamorphose the proteins necessary for the neurons to function in toxic proteins which would then propagate from neuron to neuron”, continues Dr. Neunlist. And since the intestine has a large nervous system, these changes could lead to digestive disorders. On the other hand, the gut is also connected to the brain nerve (especially with the vagus nerve) or blood, which would allow toxic proteins to cause degeneration of neurons. Such a mechanism could also occur in other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.


The exposure of our intestine to pollutants could play a major role in the current explosion of chronic diseases


Why do some individuals exposed to these toxic factors trigger illness and others not? Answer by Michel Neunlist: “These pathologies are multifactorial and still poorly understood. They are due to exposures to environmental factors during varying windows of time. Accompanied by genetic susceptibility factors that also vary. Thus, the exposure of our gut (a real interface with our environment) and its microbiota to pollutants could play a major role in the current explosion of chronic diseases. This is why limiting our exposure to risks is becoming a major public health issue. ”


And first and foremost, we must protect and strengthen our immune system. For that, the intestinal barrier must remain sufficiently tight while ensuring the nutritive exchanges towards the blood and the lymph. Between its folds, folds, villi, microvilli, each dedicated to a function, we see that the small intestine is a sacred sorting plant. “The nervous system of the intestine is not only used to propel the intestinal contents, adds Michel Neunlist. It also controls the functions of the intestinal barrier and even the immune system. Moreover, ongoing studies (eg in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of digestive neurostimulation in repairing the intestinal mucosa. Several clinical studies show that, with an unbalanced microbiota, the intestine, its nervous system, and the brain function poorly. Thus, modifications of the microbiota can induce alterations in the number and functioning of neurons, which can be restored by a healthy microbiota, particularly during the perinatal period. But beware, this “great intestinal plasticity” is not eternal: in humans, it intervenes only during the first years of life. After, it’s up to us not to damage it and preserve our health capital.


Michel Neunlist shows animated MRIs where we observe the neurological circuit that transits from the spinal cord to the intestine at the stage of the fetus! Fascinating and a little scary because we measure the impact of an unhealthy diet on our brain, the terrifying Alzheimer’s disease in the line of fire. As Professor Perlemuter explains, “the metabolites made by our bacteria go into all organs, including the brain.”
To anticipate and identify our risks, researchers conclude that individual analyzes are essential to better understand our microbiota and its flaws, ie how food and pollutants can modify it. Blood, urine, stools, and allergy tests are long and tedious. It was the obstacle course of parents of autistic children who testify here. They paved the way. Scientists and us to enjoy it.

Parents never resigned

To save their child was a fight. The parents we interviewed tell us all of the same quest, desperately lonely in front of the helplessness, the inaction of uninformed pediatricians and doctors, closed, sometimes limited. A baby who is withdrawn and in a state of violence, who digests badly and does not sleep is a painful enigma. Christine Buscailhon suffered so much that she broke into a book, “Little Leo & the 40 doctors. The return trip to autism. The diagnosis of autism was too late for his son who was already 4 years old. It’s an osteopath who put her on the track of food. Then a naturopath. “Three days after the milk and gluten were removed, Leo’s belly had deflated, and he began to chirp and laugh. Then he calmed down, had more fluid movements … “For others, it was word-of-mouth or intuition. Each time, the same signals alert: the baby seems to develop very well the first months and then, around 12-18 or 24 months, it is the stunt. The child does not digest, he is bloated or has diarrhea, vomits, no longer grows, moves less and less, folds himself, screams do not sleep anymore, starts banging his parents, milling with the arms, to be polarized on a mechanical element, wheels that turn, for example. A hell that few specialists manage to name.


Once the diagnosis of autism is made, child psychiatry enters the scene with its procession of soothing molecules, without any parallel research. Constipations are regulated with laxatives, some mothers hear that “it will give him for life”! It is still the parents who, thanks to the Internet, expand their information. A Swiss association, Stelior, offers detailed blood, stool, urine and hair tests for allergies. A Spanish pediatrician trained at the Autism Research Institute or a Swiss doctor immediately puts them on the track of intolerance to gluten and milk casein, two substances well known today, with the wave of allergies that seems to reach more and more people. Bread and milk, but also barley, almond, soy, corn, peas, egg yolk … We imagine the patience necessary to test each product likely to cause inflammation of the intestine of these children. The fear of doing wrong, too.


All parents describe a dramatic improvement in their child’s condition

But the game is worth it: all parents describe a dramatic improvement in the condition of their child. For little Eva, folded on herself, hyper-choleric and bloated every day “like a pregnant woman”, it’s a complete cure. “She starts to look at people, gives her toys to her friends in kindergarten, babble, draws … Everyone is stunned,” says Corinne Baculard, her mother, hyperactive caregiver, a tireless researcher of solutions. Marie Perrazi, the mother of 9-year-old Adrien, tells the same story: throughout the analyzes and the follow-up, she removes half a dozen foods, does the impossible to avoid pesticides, endocrine disruptors, he gives us enzymes, trace elements … In two years, Adrien is metamorphosed: he sleeps, digests, grows, speaks and even sings. “He can finally benefit from the behavioral therapies he still needs,” says Marie. For the Dravet syndrome (psychomotor problems) which the little Léonard is reached, same therapy, same results from his 3 years. “He is now 14 years old, remains a child with a developmental delay, but he evolves much better than his peers who carry the syndrome,” observes his mother, Audrey Mouchonnet.


At the top of food exclusions: milk and wheat

Listening to these testimonies, we are amazed by the infinite perseverance of these parents. They trained on the job, experimenting. At the top of the food exclusions: milk and wheat. But their children do not lack calcium or minerals. They eat other things that make up for it. Among our many interviews, there is also the case of an adult Asperger and Depressive. Caroline has studied the effects of this new diet on herself. She who remained glued to her mother no longer takes antidepressants and manages to live independently.

For these everyday heroines, these poor fathers, those children of the unspeakable, a single cry from the heart: when will an expanded training of doctors and pediatricians in the field of digestion and nutrition? If it is understood that “the bowel is our second brain,” then our brilliant practitioners should not leave the trail in the hands of potential manipulators and quacks.


source: parismatch