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The Power of Neuro-Gastro-Immunity

Posted by Stephen Cowan, MD on

Over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed several revolutions in science that have changed the way we think about health and healing. The first revolution is epigenetics, the realization that our changing environment is constantly shaping what our genes express.  The second is neuroplasticity, the realization that our brains keeps reshaping themselves, that we’re only done learning when we think we’re done! Epigenetics and neuroplasticity are linked through a third great revolution, the realization that our immunity is part of a much grander unified memory system called neuro-gastro-immunity


What is ironic about all this is that there is nothing revolutionary about it at all. Medical practitioners in ancient China clearly understood these principles and utilized them in promoting health.  They understood that when we live in communion with our changing environment we are more resilient and feel happier. They understood that there is an intimate ecological relationship between digestion, mental health and immune resilience.


This neuro-gastro-immune system can be pictured like this:




The only reason we think of these as three separate systems is because we have neurologists, gastroenterologists and immunologists (who rarely talk to each other).  But your body doesn’t know they're separate.  In fact, what they share is that they are all made up of memory cells. Our immune cells change their surface after an exposure to something in their environment and that’s how they remember how to respond the next time they come in contact with that thing.  Our brain’s neuroplasticity depends on immune-derived glial cells to prune connections and that’s how we remember information. And the cells in our gut-brain shape themselves to remember how to process the information of food with the help of a vast community of good bacteria living inside us (microbiome).


Gryph & IvyRose have given us a new set of herb formulas for children based on this ancient wisdom that supports healthy neuro-gastro-immunity.


Current research has shown how:

  • Healthy sleep is critical for immune resilience, memory, mood and digestion. 
  • Healthy mood is critical to how we take on challenges and recover from illness.
  • Healthy digestion is the key to supporting mood, growth and immune resilience.
  • Healthy immunity does not mean never getting sick, it means learning how to recover. 



Stephen Cowan, MD is a board-certified pediatrician with 25 years of clinical experience working with children. He now writes, teaches, and maintains a busy private practice in NYC





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  6. Weinhold B, Epigeneitcs: the Science of Change, Environ Health Perspect 2006 Mar; 114(3): A160–A167.

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