Sensitivity Along Digestive Tract

Sensitivity Along Digestive Tract

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Suppose you swallowed a little capsule with a blunt poker which had some impulse of force applied every few seconds. What would be the sensitivity ordering (of lips, mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, jejunum, ilium, colon, rectum, anus)?

Does sensitivity just fall to a minimum in the middle of the digestive tract and increase again to the exit, or are there any other extremum (e.g., at the ilium-colon interface) along the way? I'm guessing people could infer the answer by looking at the density of nerve cells along this route, but I couldn't find any comparable scientific data in my quick internet searches.

Effects of stocking density on the growth performance and digestive microbiota of broiler chickens

Increased stocking densities are frequently reported to depress chicken growth performance, but the mechanisms behind this are not fully understood. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of stocking density on growth performance and digestive microbiota, known to be sensitive to environmental factors. Chickens were reared at 2 stocking densities, 12 or 17 birds/m(2). Growth performance was recorded between d 1 and 39, and litter was scored for quality on d 25, 31, and 37. Digestive microbiota was analyzed along the digestive tract (crop, ileum, ceca) of 3- and 6-wk-old chickens by using 2 molecular approaches: a qualitative method (fingerprinting by temporal temperature gradient gel electrophoresis) and a quantitative method (real-time PCR). An increase in stocking density was found to negatively affect the feed conversion ratio (+3.1%) and depress the daily BW gain of broilers (-5.5%) during the period from d 32 to 39 (P ≤ 0.05). Litter quality was reduced with the high stocking density as early as d 25. At 3 wk of age, stocking density strongly affected the fingerprint profiles of the bacterial community, with the highest modifications observed in the crop and ceca (R analysis of similarity = 0.77 and 0.69, respectively, P ≤ 0.05). At 6 wk of age, significant differences in the fingerprint profiles between the stocking densities appeared in the crop and ceca (R analysis of similarity = 0.52 and 0.27, respectively, P ≤ 0.05). The abundance of bacterial groups targeted by real-time PCR was affected by stocking density, but only to a limited extent. Because digestive microbiota may have consequences on the physiology of the digestive tract, its modification by an increase in stocking density may be involved in the reduced growth performance of the bird.

A high-fiber diet can help lower your chances of getting a serious gut problem like diverticulitis. With this condition, pouches in the wall of the colon cause waste to become trapped. This can lead to inflammation or infection. Doctors aren’t sure what causes the problem, but research shows that eating a lot of fiber keeps waste moving through your system.

Fiber can also help ease the symptoms of some types of irritable bowel syndrome. It does that by helping control your digestive system and lowering your risk of getting constipation.

And people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes heartburn, may feel better if they switch to a high-fiber diet, some studies show.

It can also help cut your risk of certain cancers, lower your cholesterol, and help keep your blood sugar balanced.

If your doctor suggests that you get more fiber, it’s important to go slow. Adding too much too quickly can overwhelm your gut, causing bloating and cramping.


Wanda D. Filer, MD, MBA, FAAFP, a family physician in York, PA president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mirta Desir, Florida resident, eats high-fiber diet.

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Diverticula, Diverticulosis, Diverticulitis: What's the Difference?”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Ways to boost fiber.”

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America: “Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis: A guide for parents.”

What are food sensitivities?

Some people use the term “food sensitivities” as a catchall to describe a wide range of adverse symptoms that can be brought on by eating certain foods. 1

Other people define sensitivities more narrowly. 2 For them, food sensitivities are what’s left over when the following problems are ruled out

  • Food allergies: When the immune system mistakenly treats a component in food as if it were a germ. This can lead to a wide range of allergic responses: hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening drops in blood pressure.
  • Food intolerances: The inability to process or digest certain foods. For example, someone who is lactose intolerant doesn’t have adequate amounts of the digestive enzymes needed to break down lactose, a sugar present in dairy products.
  • Celiac disease: An autoimmune reaction that triggers gut inflammation and diarrhea when someone consumes gluten, a protein found in many grains, most notably wheat.

Still other people use the word “sensitivity” interchangeably with “intolerance.” They throw around the term IBS (short for irritable bowel syndrome)—trying to indicate that something in the diet is making someone feel sick, but they’re unsure of the culprit.

It’s all pretty confusing, so let’s make it simple.

For the purposes of this story, I’ll borrow a definition from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “A food sensitivity occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food.” 3

The Villi

By the time food reaches to the villi, it is already digested to small nutrients. These small nutrients can pass through the alimentary tract lining and can readily be absorbed by the blood. The food products pass into the blood stream through villi, which are small folded structures that cover the internal surface of the small intestine.

It is important to know that there are a number of factors that improve the efficiency of absorption. The villi on their own increase the surface area. However, the microvilli which are smaller projections (see diagram) further increase the surface area and speed up the absorption process.

The Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

Top ProductsLifestageTop Ingredients
1. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog FoodAdultSalmon, Barley, Rice, Oat Meal, Fish Meal
2. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Dog FoodAdultChicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Soybean Oil
3. Solid Gold Leaping Waters Sensitive Stomach Salmon & Vegetable Dry Dog FoodAllSalmon, Ocean Fish Meal, Chickpeas, Lentils, Chicken Fat
4. Diamond Care Sensitive Stomach Formula Adult Dry Dog FoodAdultPotatoes, Egg Product, Potato Protein, Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat
5. Natural Balance L.I.D. Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Dry Dog FoodAdult, PuppySalmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Sunflower Oil
6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog FoodAdultDeboned Turkey, Potatoes, Turkey Meal, Peas, Canola Oil
7. Purina ONE SmartBlend Sensitive Systems Adult Formula Dry Dog FoodAdultSalmon, Rice Flour, Pearled Barley, Oat Meal, Corn Gluten Meal
8. Taste of the Wild Pine Forest Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodAdultVenison, Lamb Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Blueberries

1. Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Barley, 3. Rice, 4. Oat Meal, 5. Fish Meal

Purina’s Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach dog food has created a special diet for sensitive dogs that boosts both digestive and skin health. The recipe is built from easily-digestible salmon, rice, and oatmeal that provide essential macro-nutrients, while fish oils and omega fatty acids nourish the skin and coat of your dog.

Moreover, the dog food plays a vital role in strengthening your canine’s digestive health through live probiotics and prebiotic fibers. Both of them support effective digestion and encourage nutrient absorption for a healthy and active canine.

2. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Brewers Rice, 3. Chicken Meal, 4. Yellow Peas, 5. Soybean Oil

This tasty sensitive stomach dog food from Hill’s Science Diet has a successful track record of alleviating digestive issues in most dogs. It features an array of highly-digestible ingredients, including chicken, brown rice, and soybean oil that support your dog’s nutritional needs and overall health.

Another notable feature of the dog food is its prebiotic support, which promotes gut flora and leads to stronger digestive health. It’s also an excellent choice for dogs with sensitive skin due to its omega fatty acid and vitamin E content that improves skin and coat health.

3. Solid Gold Leaping Waters Sensitive Stomach Grain-Free Cold Water Salmon & Vegetable Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Ocean Fish Meal, 3. Chickpeas, 4. Lentils, 5. Chicken Fat

The Solid Gold brand is aimed at creating the highest-quality recipes with a selection of superfoods. Their Leaping Waters Sensitive Stomach dog food is designed with that same philosophy but is 100% free from grains, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy. Instead, it contains wholesome ingredients like cold water salmon, chickpeas, carrots, and pumpkin that supply a range of vital and supplementary nutrients.

Like any other sensitive diet, the dog food also provides probiotic support to strengthen your canine’s stomach and immune health. It also contains omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to nourish your dog’s skin and help them grow a shiny and soft coat.

4. Diamond Care Sensitive Stomach Formula Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Potatoes, 2. Egg Product, 3. Potato Protein, 4. Tomato Pomace, 5. Chicken Fat

Diamond Care Sensitive Stomach Formula is the ultimate dog food for canines with an extremely fragile digestive system. It contains a very limited selection of ingredients and even exchanges meat for egg protein for extra sensitive dogs. The recipe is completely free from grains, gluten, corn, wheat, and soy, so even the most sensitive dogs can enjoy and fully digest a tasty meal.

To further strengthen your dog’s digestive tract, the dog food includes species-specific probiotics that promote gut flora and more efficient digestion. Also, the recipe contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids that support your dog’s general health and helps them grow healthy fur.

5. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Menhaden Fish Meal, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Potatoes, 5. Sunflower Oil

Natural Balance’s Salmon & Sweet Potato dog food provides the benefit of being both limited in ingredients and having a recipe made entirely from digestion-friendly foods for sensitive dogs. This list of foods includes real salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower oil, and other wholesome ingredients that aid in muscle nourishment and make your dog more energetic.

In addition to this, the dog food is completely free from grains, peas, lentils, corn, and wheat so your dog can fully digest and absorb nutrients. Also, Natural Balance’s dog foods are manufactured exclusively in the USA to ensure the highest-quality end product.

6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Deboned Turkey, 2. Potatoes, 3. Turkey Meal, 4. Peas, 5. Canola Oil

Cutting down on allergy-causing ingredients is important, but so is providing a holistic and highly-nutritious diet. That’s what Blue Buffalo’s Basics LID Formula is made for. It features a single protein and a selection of easily digestible carbs for optimal energy levels and muscle nourishment. Aside from that, the dog food includes LifeSource Bits that deliver antioxidants and vitamins, as well as pumpkin for soothing the stomach of sensitive canines.

But even with such a vast nutritional profile, the recipe contains zero grains, corn, dairy wheat, soy, artificial flavors, and preservatives. So if you’re concerned about not fulfilling your dog’s nutritional needs due to their sensitive stomach, try Blue Buffalo’s Basics LID Formula and see their health flourish.

7. Purina ONE SmartBlend Sensitive Systems Adult Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Rice Flour, 3. Pearled Barley, 4. Oat Meal, 5. Corn Gluten Meal

Instead of just catering to dogs with sensitive stomachs, Purina ONE Sensitive Systems provides a nutritional solution for dogs that suffer from all sorts of sensitivities. Its selection of real salmon, rice, and oatmeal supports muscle growth and fuels your dog’s energy reserves in an easily-digestible package.

More than that, the recipe contains vitamin E and omega fatty acids that allow dogs with itchy and sensitive skin to grow soft and lustrous fur. The dog food is also a great choice for aging canines as it contains antioxidants, glucosamine, and chondroitin that strengthen the immune system and improves joint health.

8. Taste of the Wild Pine Forest Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Venison, 2. Lamb Meal, 3. Garbanzo Beans, 4. Peas, 5. Blueberries

Taste of the Wild Pine Forest is one of the most premium and nutrient-dense dog foods available for sensitive canines on the market. Like any other Taste of the Wild formula, it contains novel proteins and unique ingredients like venison, garbanzo beans, and peas. A full list of wholesome fruits and vegetables help in providing essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Because the diet is focused on sensitive dogs, it also boasts additional benefits from K9 probiotics and prebiotics that promote gut flora and improve digestion. The recipe is also stripped off allergens like grains and artificial preservatives.

9. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Salmon Meal, 3. Potatoes, 4. Peas, 5. Chicory Root Extract

Wellness goes over and above with their Simple LID Dog Food by building their entire recipe on just five wholesome foods salmon, potatoes, peas, canola oil, and chicory root extract. These ingredients provide the right balance of essential nutrients and encourage quick and smooth digestion.

Aside from that, the recipe includes antioxidants, glucosamine, and omega fatty acids that help in strengthening immunity, joints, and coat health. The dog food also improves nutrients absorption and digestion through probiotics. All of these nutrients not only make your dog feel healthy but also makes them more alert and active.

10. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Lamb Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Lamb Meal, 2. Lamb, 3. Coconut Oil, 4. Peas, 5. Freeze Dried Lamb Heart

While other brands craft formulas from selected foods, Instinct Limited LID Diet follows a simple two-ingredient approach by using only one protein and one vegetable to reduce digestive upsets to a minimum. It sources most of the nutrients from lamb meat, peas, tapioca, and canola oil that encourage nutrient absorption and smooth digestion.

Antioxidants and omega fats are plentiful in the recipe and promote healthy fur and stronger immunity. Because the diet is so limited in ingredients, it will suit canines that are allergic to most ingredients like dairy, meat, and grains.

11. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Salmon, 2. Menhaden Fish Meal, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Peas, 5. Canola Oil

Cutting down on ingredients might be a good strategy, but making that dog food taste good is what counts. Canidae Pure LID dog food has succeeded with this strategy and has become a favorite of dogs with sensitive stomachs and a picky attitude. It’s made from easily-digestible ingredients like salmon, sweet potatoes, peas, and canola oil that support overall body conditioning and health without causing stomach upsets.

Apart from that, the recipe also includes antioxidants, probiotics, fatty acids, and vitamins that build strong immunity and promote gut flora. Canidae Pure LID dog food remains a popular choice amongst picky eaters, and many owners have praised it for its appeal to their canines.

12. Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Deboned Salmon, 2. Salmon Meal, 3. Chickpeas, 4. Canola Oil, 5. Dried Chicory Root

Whether you’ve got a puppy with a sensitive stomach or an adult with food allergies, Nulo Freestyle Limited+ dog food has all the right ingredients to fulfill their nutritional needs without placing any stress on their digestion. It has one of the highest protein contents amongst dog foods at 30% minimum, which is crucial for both puppies and adults in building muscle mass.

Any ingredient that has the slightest chance of irritating a sensitive stomach has been exempted from the recipe, including grains, potatoes, eggs, peas, soy, and artificial preservatives. Side by side, the dog food strengthens your dog’s digestive system with GanedenBC30 probiotics and nourishes their coat with omega fatty acids.

13. Holistic Select Adult Health Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon Meals Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Anchovy and Sardine Meal, 2. Brown Rice, 4. Oatmeal, 4. Salmon Meal, 5. Cranberries

Holistic Select Adult Health dog food manages to pack in tons of nutrients and wholesome foods into a super-tasty kibble. From anchovy and sardines to oatmeal and pumpkin, each ingredient digests quickly and absorbs fully into your dog’s body. Micronutrients like antioxidants, glucosamine, and taurine help in improving joint health and strengthening the immune system.

Unlike most dog foods, Holistic Select also includes easy-digesting grains like brown rice that fuel energy levels throughout the day. It also contains probiotics that promote gut bacteria and improve digestive health. The dog food is exclusively manufactured in the US and is a favorite amongst picky dogs with sensitive stomachs.

14. Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Brown Rice, 4. Dried Peas, 5. Sunflower Oil

Rachael Ray Nutrish’s Bright Puppy is aimed at providing premium-quality, holistic nutrition to puppies with sensitive digestion. Within a simple recipe, the brand has managed to pack in tons of high-quality foods such as real chicken, carrots, brown rice, and beet pulp.

These foods provide puppies with every single macro and micronutrient required for optimal growth, including vitamins, antioxidants, DHA, omega fatty acids, and more. To prevent digestive upsets, the recipe excludes all sorts of artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors. The dog food is exclusively manufactured in Rachael Ray Nutrish’s USA factory under strict safety standards to ensure that your puppy receives the highest-quality nutrition.

15. Royal Canin Small Digestive Care Dry Dog Food

Top Ingredients: 1. Chicken By-Product Meal, 2. Corn, 3. Chicken Fat, 4. Brewers Rice, 5. Dried Plain Beet Pulp

Small breed dogs are more prone to sensitive stomachs, and sometimes the culprit can be a caloric-dense sensitive dog food. Royal Canin has created Small Digestive Care dog food especially for this purpose with a calorie and nutrition profile tailored for small and toy dog breeds.

It uses highly-digestible proteins, carbs, and dietary fiber for optimal nutrient absorption and increased energy levels. Probiotics are also included in the recipe to promote gut flora and improve stool quality. The taste and aroma of the dog food make it a popular choice amongst canines.

Communication is a two-way street when it comes to the brain and the digestive system. Several pathways link the brain and the intestines with information flowing back and forth on a continual basis. This close connection is most clearly seen in our response to stress (perceived threat), which suggests that this communication network is very important for our survival.

Researchers are finding evidence that dysfunction along these up and down pathways may be contributing to the abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea that are the symptoms of IBS. Nerves in the gut that are experiencing excessive sensitivity can trigger changes in the brain.  

Thoughts, feelings, and activation of parts of the brain that have to do with anxiety or arousal can stimulate exaggerated gut responses. A malfunction may also be found along the many different pathways that connect the brain and gut. Dysfunction in the brain-gut communication system interferes with the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis, a state in which all systems are working smoothly.  

When to Ask Your Doctor About Bloating

Temporary bloating is common and nothing to worry about. But if you’re troubled by bloating on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.

Physical obstructions such as scarring of the stomach opening can make it hard for food to pass through the digestive tract normally. If your doctor diagnoses a physical obstruction in the stomach or small intestines, surgery may be required to correct it. Bloating can also be caused by impaired muscle function in the digestive tract. When muscles that normally move food along don’t work properly, gas can build up in the small intestines, causing bloating. In some cases, gas in the intestines may go the wrong way, returning to the stomach.

Persistent bloating or distention may also signal potentially serious conditions, such as enlargement of one of the abdominal organs or a malignancy.

The Gut-Brain Link: How Your Headaches Might Stem From Your Digestion

I thought I had it figured out. These complicated migraines that I spent years studying seemed to make so much sense on paper. First comes the prodrome, the 24-hour period of time that about 70 percent of migraneurs experience before their attack of disabling pain (1). For some, the prodrome may be a change in mood, such as irritability or anxiety. Others may experience digestive pain, diarrhea or constipation. Yet others may feel fatigued or the opposite, very energetic.

These symptoms stem from the deep brain structures, likely the hypothalamus, warning us that an attack is on the way. After the prodrome arrives the aura in about 20 percent of sufferers (2). This can be a visual phenomenon or sensory experience such as tingling and can last from a few minutes to an hour. Then the pain sets in, which can be accompanied with nausea, light sensitivity, smell sensitivity, along with a host of other associated symptoms.

These events, truthfully, are perplexing in terms of what initiates them and what terminates an attack, as most migraines last 4-72 hours. (3) But these attacks seem to have an order to them that is systematic and logical to the observer, or the doctor treating them. The brain gets excitable, then inflamed. Neurons are involved, along with changes in blood vessels and blood flow to the brain, eventually leading to a release of inflammatory peptides (4,5).

All I needed to do was give a medication that either quieted the brain down, like a triptan or seizure mediation, or use medications that blocked inflammation, such as an anti-inflammatory or a steroid. Simple, right?

I would ask patients to journal their pain, make sure they were getting enough sleep, give them tools to manage their stress and encourage intake of certain nutrients. After using all the tools I had at my disposal, including Botulinum toxin -- believed to block inflammatory peptides -- patients did improve, but I still was unable to completely rid many of the pain they suffered. I was missing the biggest trigger to these attacks: the gut.

A new meaning of the term "gut feeling"

I still remember sitting down for my neurology board exams and feeling a twinge of discomfort in my stomach. The ache started the morning of the exam and persisted until I started to answer the first few questions. My confidence grew as the answers came to me, my stomach started to settle, and eventually the pain resolved.

We all know the sensation of having "butterflies" in our stomachs before a big presentation or stressful event. Along this line, a trend became very obvious to me as I was able to share in the lives of my many patients by hearing their stories. I started to really listen to their complaints of headaches, moods issues, sleep struggles and fatigue. These complaints were often in addition to other bodily complaints, such as digestive, or "gut" issues.

I began to wonder, do our digestive systems have a mind of their own? Could our gut actually think? Is this possible? Based on current research, the digestive system, which I like to call "the gut" actually has a brain of its own.

Books have been written proving that the enteric nervous system, the nervous system linked to our digestive tract, can run without help from the brain. [6] At the same time, we also have come to realize that the gut and brain often communicate with each other.

When our emotions or stress rises, we often first feel this in our gut, before it's processed in our brains. There is a constant communication between these two systems (7). In fact, I have had patients who have sworn that removing their gallbladder has lessened their frequency of migraines. Now, I would never recommend having gallbladder surgery to improve one's headaches, though this has made me wonder that if we could strengthen the gallbladder and the rest of the digestive system, couldn't we try to beat migraines at the same time?

Serotonin: Not just for depression anymore

It is believed that the digestive system is very complex in terms of its production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. The gut has specialized cells that release serotonin, which is a key neurotransmitter in the migraine world. In fact, it is believed that most of our serotonin is produced in the gut. (8) FYI, this is the neurotransmitter linked to the success of triptan medications, the largest class of FDA-approved abortive medications for migraine.

Triptan medications work on serotonin receptors to help with migraine pain. Interestingly, many patients who had not gotten relief from traditional irritable bowel syndrome treatment responded well to antidepressants that work on serotonin. In fact, the gut has at least seven different receptors that respond to serotonin. [9]

With all of this information, a few years ago I began asking patients to not only discuss their neurological complaints that affected their brains, but also the complaints that affected their digestion. I was shocked to learn how many of them had been suffering with digestive issues for years before their headaches began. Of course, most never thought that the gut and its often zany antics could affect the brain.

Another link: Food allergies and headaches

In my neurology practice, we decided to study the prevalence of food allergies in our migraine patients. We found very surprising results. Out of 500 patients tested, upwards of 60 percent had allergies to dairy, about 50 percent to grains and 35 percent to eggs. (10)

Keep in mind that many of these patients had HIDDEN food allergies. They didn't even realize the offending food was creating an allergy response in their digestive tract since they didn't present with digestive symptoms.

We are now finding many individuals with an imbalanced digestive lining, who have no digestive symptoms. That is tricky for many of us since it is possible that a food is allergic and we may never even be aware of it unless we get tested. Plus, if symptoms do occur, they are often vague and/or not linked to the digestive system. Common symptoms may be headaches, insomnia or fatigue.

Takeaway points

1) Migraine attacks involve excitable neurons that are often quieted with the neurotransmitter serotonin. The neurons, in later stages of a migraine attack, become inflamed -- translation: pain.

2) The gut has its own enteric nervous system, some would call the "second brain" (see reference below). The digestive system makes serotonin at optimal levels when it is functioning well.

3) Food allergies, often considered hidden since they are not obvious to many clinically, are very commonly found in our migraine patients. (10)

To tie this all together, a healthy digestive system will likely produce an adequate amount of neurotransmitters to keep one from experiencing digestive pain, and even migraine pain. This seemed to be the link: having a stronger, happier digestion meant one could possibly have a stronger, happier head, right?

I reached back into my ancestry for some confirmation. One of the most ancient systems of healing known to mankind, Ayurveda, originating in India, believes that longevity is linked to the strength of one's digestive system.

Eating a diet that is Ayurvedic and matches your mind-body type and excludes foods that you have an intolerance to can strengthen your digestive tract, improve serotonin production and thus strengthen your mind. This can lead to a healthier, more optimal brain.

Isn't that we are all striving for?

(1) Lipton RB, Diamond S, Reed ML, et al. Migraine diagnosis and treatment: results of the American Migraine Study II. Headache. 200141: 538-545.

(2) Rothrock MD, John. "Headache Toolbox" Journal of Headache. July-August 2009.

(3) Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society. Classification and diagnostic criteria for headache disorders, cranial neuralgias and facial pain. Cephalalgia. 19888(suppl 7):1-96.

(4) Moskowitz MA, Cutrer FM. SUMATRIPTAN: A receptor-targeted treatment for migraine. Ann Rev Med. 199344:145-54

(5) Peroutka, SJ. Neurogenic inflammation and migraine: Implications for therapeutics. Mol Interv.2005 5:306-13

(6) Cryan, John Dinan, TImothy. Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 13, 701-712 (October 2012)

[7] Gershon, M. D. (1998). The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing p. 127.

(8) Carpenter, Siri. That Gut Feeling. Monitor on Psychology 2012 43 (8): 50

(10) Gokani, T. The Prevalence of Food Allergies in Migraine Patients. Headache. Abstract 2012 54

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Stay tuned for Dr. Gokani's upcoming book! The Mysterious Mind:How to Use Ancient Science and Modern Wisdom to Heal your Headaches and Reclaim Your Life