This is Your Brain. . .On a Healthy Gut

Mar 24, 2021

In the past couple posts we’ve been talking about gut health and its link to cancer and health issues in children such as autism, diabetes, asthma, and behavior. Is it any wonder then, that there is a gut-brain connection that science is only beginning to understand.

First, I want to get geeky and explain the blood-brain barrier so that the following study makes sense.  The blood-brain barrier is like a semi-permeable security system for the brain. Its made up of a network of blood vessels that allows essential nutrients to pass through while blocking ‘foreign substances’. It also helps maintain a constant environment for the brain. In short, an intact blood-brain barrier is vital to brain development and function.

A research report published in Science Translation Medicine found that germ-free mice had ‘leaky’ blood-brain barriers until they were exposed to pathogen-free gut microbiota which decreased the permeability. What that means is that the healthy gut microbiota had the ability to help ‘heal’ the blood brain barrier. [1]

Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Tillisch said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

In a similar study, researchers found that when they transferred microbiota via fecal transplants from IBS patients into germ-free mice, the mice developed changes in intestinal function (intestinal barrier dysfunction and low grade inflammation) and behaviors (anxiety-like) similar to that of the donor IBS patients.

The authors said the study “adds to evidence suggesting that the intestinal microbiota may play some role in the spectrum of brain disorders ranging from mood or anxiety to other problems that may include autism, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.” [2]

Did you catch that? The intestinal issues and behaviors the IBS patients had were ‘transferred’ to the mice. The mice developed similar gut and behavioral issues. I don’t know about you, but that just blows my mind!

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But results like these don’t end with mice studies. In an interesting study published by Gastroenterology, 36 healthy women (with no gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms) were split into three groups. One group of women ate yogurt containing probiotics Bifidobacterium animalis subsp LactisStreptococcus thermophilesLactobacillus bulgaricusand Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis twice a day for 4 weeks. The second group of women ate a non-fermented dairy product without probiotics for the same frequency and length of time, and the third group ate no product.

Before and after the study, the women were given brain scans to gauge their response while resting and while viewing a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces which they were to match to other faces showing the same emotions. At the end of the study, the women who ate the yogurt reacted more calmly to the images.

Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the study said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.” [3,4]

How can I create a healthy gut?

One of the simplest ways to start creating a healthy gut is by making changes in your diet. Eating fermented foods like yogurt (look for unsweetened with beneficial bacteria or learn to make your own) and sauerkraut will help to start giving the good microbes a boost. Purchase books like Nourishing Traditions, join online groups with others learning about fermenting veggies and making bone broth, or order a fermenting eCookbook.

 

 

 


 

Resources:

[1] Braniste, V., Al-Asmakh, M., Kowal, C., Anuar, F., Abbaspour, A., Tóth, M., … Pettersson, S. (2014). The gut microbiota influences blood-brain barrier permeability in mice. Science Translational Medicine6(263), 263ra158. http://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3009759

[2] McMaster University. (2017, March 1). Intestinal bacteria alter gut and brain function, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170301142503.htm

[3] Tillisch, K., Labus, J., Kilpatrick, L., Jiang, Z., Stains, J., Ebrat, B., … Mayer, E. A. (2013). Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology144(7), 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. http://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043

[4] Champeau R. (2013, May 28). “Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows.” UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved March 26, 2017 from http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/changing-gut-bacteria-through-245617

 

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