The Gut-Brain Connection

My name is Lisa Shanken, and I call myself a Healthy Lifestyle Mentor. I specialize in working with mental health clients, especially those with poor executive functioning and nutritional imbalances. I am working with some Sutherland Bipolar Center patients to help them improve organization, structure, and healthy habits through lifestyle mentoring techniques. I have certifications in nutrition counseling and personal fitness training, as well as culinary training. I have also taken continuing education courses in different mental health treatments and have worked with many types and varying degrees of mental illnesses.

I specialize in the gut-brain connection. There has been ongoing research about the human microbiome (the trillions of organisms that live in our gut) and its link to our brains. According to the Scientific American, a recent study in Stockholm showed that the microbes in the gut can help control the intestines from leaking foreign objects into our blood (aka “leaky gut”). Another study showed that disruptions in the microbiome of mice lead to anxiety and depression.

Specific to bipolar disorder, one study published in The Journal of Psychiatric Research found that bipolar sufferers had less Faecalibacterium (a specific strain of bacteria) than people who did not have bipolar disorder. Another recent study found a correlation between bipolar disorder and gut inflammation.

There are many things a person can do to improve leaky gut syndrome, and in turn, improve debilitating symptoms of mental illnesses. These include starting a fitness regimen, making specific dietary changes, and creating a mindfulness practice.

It’s my job to not only teach my patients what these specific strategies are, but also to help them implement them, to be consistent with these lifestyle changes until they become habitual, and to then maximize the benefits. It’s also my job to customize an overall gut health improvement plan for each patient since fitness, diet, and mindfulness are definitely not a one-size-fits-all practice.

It takes some time to help patients make all of the necessary changes, but the resulting healthier gut has immense benefits, including decreased anxiety and depression, weight loss, increased self-confidence, and improved executive functioning.

I am very passionate about this work and welcome any questions and discussions regarding it. Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the Sutherland Bipolar Center and the amazing services it offers to patients in need.