A common probiotic can decrease stress related behavior and anxiety

Gut Microbe Movements Regulate Host Circadian Rhythms

Summary: Study exposes a new dynamic between the mammalian organism and the microbes that live inside their gut.

Source: Cell Press.

Even gut microbes have a routine. Like clockwork, they start their day in one part of the intestinal lining, move a few micrometers to the left, maybe the right, and then return to their original position. New research in mice now reveals that the regular timing of these small movements can influence a host animal’s circadian rhythms by exposing gut tissue to different microbes and their metabolites as the day goes by. Disruption of this dance can affect the host. The study appears December 1 in Cell.

“This research highlights how interconnected the behavior is between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, between mammalian organisms and the microbes that live inside them,” says Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, who led the work with co-senior author Eran Segal, a computational biologist also at the Weizmann. “These groups interact with and are affected by each other in a way that can’t be separated.”

The new study had three major findings:

  • The microbiome on the surface layer of the gut undergoes rhythmical changes in its “biogeographical” localization throughout the day and night; thus, the surface cells are exposed to different numbers and different species of bacteria over the course of a day.
  • “This tango between the two partners adds mechanistic insight into this relationship,” Elinav says.
  • The circadian changes of the gut microbiome have profound effects on host physiology, and unexpectedly, they affect tissue that is far away from the gut, such as the liver, whose gene expression changes in tandem with the gut microbiome rhythmicity. “As such,” adds Elinav, “disturbances in the rhythmic microbiome result in impairment in vital diurnal liver functions such as drug metabolism and detoxification.”
  • The circadian rhythm of the host is deeply dependent on the gut microbiota oscillations. Although some circadian machinery in the host was maintained by its own internal clock, other components of the circadian clock had their normal rhythms destroyed. Most surprising, another set of genes in the host that normally exhibit no circadian rhythms stepped in and took over after the microbial rhythms were disrupted.

Previous work by Elinav and Segal revealed that our biological clocks work in tandem with the biological clocks in our microbiota and that disrupting sleep-wake patterns and feeding times in mice induced changes in the microbiome in the gut.

“Circadian rhythms are a way of adapting to changes in light and dark, metabolic changes, and the timing of when we eat,” says Segal. “Other studies have shown the importance of the microbiome in metabolism and its effect on health and disease. Now, we’ve shown for the first time how circadian rhythms in the microbiota have an effect on circadian rhythms in the host.”

Image shows a visual abstract for the research.

The investigators say their work has potential implications for human health in two important ways. First of all, because drugs ranging from acetaminophen to chemotherapy are metabolized in the liver, understanding — and potentially being able to manipulate — the circadian rhythms of our microbiota could affect how and when medications are administered.

Second, understanding more about this relationship could help to eventually intervene in health problems like obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are more common in people whose circadian rhythms are frequently disrupted due to shift work or jet lag.

“What we learned from this study is that there’s a very tight interconnectivity between the microbiome and the host. We should think of it now as one supraorganism that can’t be separated,” Segal says. “We have to fully integrate our thinking with regard to any substance that we consume.”

ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE

Funding: This research was primarily funded by Yael and Rami Ungar, Israel; Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Gurwin Family Fund for Scientific Research; Crown Endowment Fund for Immunological Research; estate of Jack Gitlitz; estate of Lydia Hershkovich; the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science; Adelis Foundation; John L. and Vera Schwartz, Pacific Palisades; Alan Markovitz, Canada; Cynthia Adelson, Canada; CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); estate of Samuel and Alwyn J. Weber; Mr. and Mrs. Donald L. Schwarz, Sherman Oaks; grants funded by the European Research Council; the German-Israel Binational foundation; the Israel Science Foundation; the Minerva Foundation; the Rising Tide foundation; the Alon Foundation scholar award; the Rina Gudinski Career Development Chair; and the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR).

Source: Joseph Caputo – Cell Press
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Thaiss et al/Cell 2016.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Microbiota Diurnal Rhythmicity Programs Host Transcriptome Oscillations” by Christoph A. Thaiss, Maayan Levy, Tal Korem, Lenka Dohnalová, Hagit Shapiro, Diego A. Jaitin, Eyal David, Deborah R. Winter, Meital Gury-BenAri, Evgeny Tatirovsky, Timur Tuganbaev, Sara Federici, Niv Zmora, David Zeevi, Mally Dori-Bachash, Meirav Pevsner-Fischer, Elena Kartvelishvily, Alexander Brandis, Alon Harmelin, Oren Shibolet, Zamir Halpern, Kenya Honda, Ido Amit, Eran Segal, and Eran Elinav for correspondence informationemail in Cell. Published online December 1 2026 doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.11.003

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Abstract

Microbiota Diurnal Rhythmicity Programs Host Transcriptome Oscillations

Highlights
•Intestinal microbiota biogeography and metabolome undergo diurnal oscillations
•Circadian oscillations of serum metabolites are regulated by the microbiota
•Microbiota rhythms program the circadian epigenetic and transcriptional landscape
•The microbiota regulates the circadian liver transcriptome and detoxification pattern

Summary
The intestinal microbiota undergoes diurnal compositional and functional oscillations that affect metabolic homeostasis, but the mechanisms by which the rhythmic microbiota influences host circadian activity remain elusive. Using integrated multi-omics and imaging approaches, we demonstrate that the gut microbiota features oscillating biogeographical localization and metabolome patterns that determine the rhythmic exposure of the intestinal epithelium to different bacterial species and their metabolites over the course of a day. This diurnal microbial behavior drives, in turn, the global programming of the host circadian transcriptional, epigenetic, and metabolite oscillations. Surprisingly, disruption of homeostatic microbiome rhythmicity not only abrogates normal chromatin and transcriptional oscillations of the host, but also incites genome-wide de novo oscillations in both intestine and liver, thereby impacting diurnal fluctuations of host physiology and disease susceptibility. As such, the rhythmic biogeography and metabolome of the intestinal microbiota regulates the temporal organization and functional outcome of host transcriptional and epigenetic programs.

“Microbiota Diurnal Rhythmicity Programs Host Transcriptome Oscillations” by Christoph A. Thaiss, Maayan Levy, Tal Korem, Lenka Dohnalová, Hagit Shapiro, Diego A. Jaitin, Eyal David, Deborah R. Winter, Meital Gury-BenAri, Evgeny Tatirovsky, Timur Tuganbaev, Sara Federici, Niv Zmora, David Zeevi, Mally Dori-Bachash, Meirav Pevsner-Fischer, Elena Kartvelishvily, Alexander Brandis, Alon Harmelin, Oren Shibolet, Zamir Halpern, Kenya Honda, Ido Amit, Eran Segal, and Eran Elinav for correspondence informationemail in Cell. Published online December 1 2026 doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.11.003

Behavior, brain SPECT scan, hormones, gratitude, neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual’s life course. The term gained prominence in the latter half of the 20th century, when new research[1] showed many aspects of the brain remain changeable (or “plastic”) even into adulthood.[2] This notion contrasts with the previous scientific consensus that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood, then remains relatively unchangeable (or “static”) afterward.[3]

Neuroplastic change can occur at small scales, such as physical changes to individual neurons, or at whole-brain scales, such as cortical remapping in response to injury; however cortical remapping only occurs during a certain time period meaning that if a child were injured and it resulted in brain damage then cortical remapping would most likely occur, however if an adult was injured and it resulted in brain damage, then cortical remapping would not occur since the brain has made the majority of its connections.[4] Behavior, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions may also cause neuroplastic change through activity-dependent plasticity, which has significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage.[4][5][6]

Neuroscientists distinguish synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes in how neurons connect to each other, from non-synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes in the neurons themselves.

Chronic pain

Main article: Chronic pain

Individuals who suffer from chronic pain experience prolonged pain at sites that may have been previously injured, yet are otherwise currently healthy. This phenomenon is related to neuroplasticity due to a maladaptive reorganization of the nervous system, both peripherally and centrally. During the period of tissue damage, noxious stimuli and inflammation cause an elevation of nociceptive input from the periphery to the central nervous system. Prolonged nociception from periphery then elicit a neuroplastic response at the cortical level to change its somatotopic organization for the painful site, inducing central sensitization.[32] For instance, individuals experiencing complex regional pain syndrome demonstrate a diminished cortical somatotopic representation of the hand contralaterally as well as a decreased spacing between the hand and the mouth.[33] Additionally, chronic pain has been reported to significantly reduce the volume of grey matter in the brain globally, and more specifically at the prefrontal cortex and right thalamus.[34] However, following treatment, these abnormalities in cortical reorganization and grey matter volume are resolved, as well as their symptoms. Similar results have been reported for phantom limb pain,[35] chronic low back pain[36] and carpal tunnel syndrome.[37]

Meditation

A number of studies have linked meditation practice to differences in cortical thickness or density of gray matter.[38][39][40] One of the most well-known studies to demonstrate this was led by Sara Lazar, from Harvard University, in 2000.[41] Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has led experiments in cooperation with the Dalai Lama on effects of meditation on the brain. His results suggest that long-term, or short-term practice of meditation results in different levels of activity in brain regions associated with such qualities as attention, anxiety, depression, fear, anger, the ability of the body to heal itself, and so on. These functional changes may be caused by changes in the physical structure of the brain.[42][43][44][45]

Fitness and exercise

Aerobic exercise promotes adult neurogenesis by increasing the production of neurotrophic factors (compounds that promote growth or survival of neurons), such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).[46][47][48] Exercise-induced neurogenesis in the hippocampus is associated with measurable improvements in spatial memory.[49][50][51][52] Consistent aerobic exercise over a period of several months induces marked clinically significant improvements in executive function (i.e., the “cognitive control” of behavior) and increased gray matter volume in multiple brain regions, particularly those that give rise to cognitive control.[48][49][53][54] The brain structures that show the greatest improvements in gray matter volume in response to aerobic exercise are the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus;[48][49][50] moderate improvements seen in the anterior cingulate cortex, parietal cortex, cerebellum, caudate nucleus, and nucleus accumbens.[48][49][50] Higher physical fitness scores (measured by VO2 max) are associated with better executive function, faster processing speed, and greater volume of the hippocampus, caudate nucleus, and nucleus accumbens.[49]

Human echolocation

Human echolocation is a learned ability for humans to sense their environment from echoes. This ability is used by some blind people to navigate their environment and sense their surroundings in detail. Studies in 2010[55] and 2011[56] using functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques have shown that parts of the brain associated with visual processing are adapted for the new skill of echolocation. Studies with blind patients, for example, suggest that the click-echoes heard by these patients were processed by brain regions devoted to vision rather than audition.[57]

ADHD stimulants

Reviews of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on individuals with ADHD suggest that the long-term treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with stimulants, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate, decreases abnormalities in brain structure and function found in subjects with ADHD, and improves function in several parts of the brain, such as the right caudate nucleus of the basal ganglia.[58][59][60] Based upon rodent models, the authors of one review proposed that “juvenile exposure to methylphenidate may cause abnormal prefrontal function and impaired plasticity in the healthy brain”.[61] The same authors noted in another review that in juvenile rats, methylphenidate reduced levels of NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor without altering NR2A levels in the prefrontal cortex, thereby affecting long-term plasticity in the prefrontal cortex.[

brain  101

Altering Gut Flora Could Reduce Stroke Risk

Changing the profile of the bacteria in the gut led to a reduction in stroke size, a new study in mice suggests.

“This was a proof-of-concept study,” study author Costantino Iadecola, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, told Medscape Medical News.

“We have demonstrated two important principles: that changes to the microflora in the gut have an effect on how the brain withstands injury, and that changes to the immune system can have a profound effect on stroke,” he said. “This could eventually lead to new therapies to prevent stroke.”

“The hope is that in future we may be able to reduce an individual’s risks of stroke by changing their microbiota profiles in the gut with use of probiotics and/or antibiotics or maybe just with dietary habits,” he added. “This could be targeted to patients at very high risk of stroke, such as those undergoing cardiac or brain surgery, but may also be applicable to secondary prevention.”

Coauthor Josef Anrather, also from Weill Cornell Medical College, said, “We have shown a new relationship between the intestine and the brain in the setting of stroke. Whatever is going on in the microflora in the gut is contributing to the immune response that controls the damage caused by a stroke. The next step is to address how much of this change is relevant in humans and which bacteria are important.”

The study was published online March 28 in Nature Medicine.

”Our findings shed new light on poorly understood immune mechanisms that have an impact on brain injury and have far-reaching and translationally relevant implications for assessing cerebrovascular risk and predicting stroke severity,” the researchers conclude in their paper.

Dr Iadecola explained that a substantial amount of evidence suggests that immunologic factors have some control over stroke occurring in the brain. “So we figured that if the immune system is geared in a certain way this may protect against stroke. As the intestine is the major reservoir of immune cells, we focused on changing the environment here and whether this would have any affect on stroke.”

For the study, the researchers induced bacteria dysbiosis — changes in the make-up of the bacteria in the gut — by treating mice with antibiotics (amoxicillin and clavulanic acid) for 2 weeks. For controls, they used mice who had been on the same antibiotics for generations, so their flora had become resistant; no bacteria dysbiosis occurred.

When stroke was induced in the mice, the ones that had induced bacterial dysbiosis showed a 60% to 70% reduction in stroke size compared with controls.

As a further verification that it was the dysbiosis rather than the antibiotic itself that was responsible for the reduced stroke, the researchers transplanted the gut contents of the mice with induced bacterial dysbiosis into normal mice and found that these mice also had smaller strokes. “This further suggests that it is the changed composition of the gut flora that is bringing about the benefit on stroke,” Dr Iadecola said.

To address the question of how gut flora can affect the brain in this way, the researchers analyzed the lymphocyte profiles of the mice. They found that the animals with induced dysbiosis and smaller strokes had more protective regulatory T cells and fewer harmful gamma delta T cells. Dr Iadecola commented: “So the change in the gut flora appears to bring about a change in the immune system, which favors smaller stroke injury.”

He explained that these lymphocytes regulate the influx of inflammatory cells, such as neutrophils, into the brain, thereby controlling inflammation in the brain. On further investigation using flow cytometry, the researchers found normal mice had increased neutrophil counts in the brain, whereas the animals with induced dysbiosis had increased neutrophil counts in the meninges but not in the brain itself.

“Our results suggest that the altered gut flora leads to higher amounts of regulatory T cells and fewer gamma delta T cells in the meninges, which somehow causes fewer neutrophils to enter the brain. We believe the gamma delta T cells help neutrophils enter the brain, whereas the regulatory T cells prevent this process,” Dr Iadecola noted.

He added that any clinical application of these findings is still a very long way off. “We need to figure out what is the optimum dysbiotic state in humans. First of all we need to conduct more studies in mice to identify the bacterial species that produce the best changes to the immune system. Then do the same thing in humans.”

 Dr Anrather referred to efforts underway at present to better characterize the human microbiome on a large scale. “We might be able to use this data to analyze how certain microbiome profiles influence stroke risk. Then in certain high-risk populations we could try and change the composition of the gut flora to the profile most suited to producing beneficial immunological changes for the cardiovascular system.”

He agreed with Dr Iadecola that the most obvious target is the prevention of stroke, and it would be more difficult to influence the acute phase of stroke because the immunologic changes take time to come into effect.

“In our current study 1 week of antibiotics did not show any change in stroke risk. The reductions in stroke size only became obvious after 2 weeks of treatment. The changes in the microbiota were there at 1 week but the immune changes did not become apparent until 2 weeks. So this approach does not seem appropriate for use in acute situations. But the immune system also plays a role in regeneration and repair, so there may also be possibilities there,” Dr Anrather said.

By

Nature Med. Published online March 28, 2016. Abstract


From Dr Mercola on Dysbiosis, leaky gut

Dysbiosis, or “leaky gut,” is a bacterial imbalance that leads to inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. Once inflamed, the intestinal lining is compromised and allows undigested food particles and other potential toxins to enter the bloodstream.

  • The most common cause of dysbiosis in today’s dogs and cats is, hands down, antibiotic overuse. Antibiotics, other drugs including vaccines, highly processed diets, and stress all contribute to development of dysbiosis in pets.
  • Typical signs of a leaky gut include gas, bloating and diarrhea. But dysbiosis can also cause or worsen a wide variety of other disorders and diseases – everything from bad breath to certain types of cancer.
  • Every case of dysbiosis is unique, so a customized healing protocol must be designed for each patient based on a specific set of conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for every leaky gut.
  • In most cases, replacing a highly processed diet with balanced, species-appropriate nutrition, and adding appropriate supplements to address inflammation and support the organs of digestion, will relieve symptoms and resolve the root cause of the leaky gut.

Healthy Gut Healthy Brain by Dr David Perlmutter

A neurologist explains the power of your microbiome to heal and protect your brain.

Your brain’s health is dictated by what goes on in your gut. That’s right: What’s taking place in your intestines affects not only your brain’s daily functions, but also determines your risk for a number of neurological conditions in the future.

Your intestinal organisms, or microbiome, participate in a wide variety of bodily systems, including immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter and vitamin production, nutrient absorption, whether you feel hungry or full, and how you utilize carbohydrates and fat. All of these processes factor into whether you experience chronic health problems like allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, type 2diabetes, or dementia.

What you might not know is that your microbiome also affects your mood, your libido, and even your perceptions of the world and the clarity of your thoughts. A dysfunctional microbiome could be at the root of your headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate, or even negative outlook on life.

Put simply, nearly everything about our health — how we feel both physically andemotionally —  can hinge on the state of our microbiome. In fact, the connection between gut flora and the brain is so important that in 2014 the National Institute of Mental Health spent more than $1 million on a research program to study this relationship.

In my work as a neurologist, I’ve discovered that no other system in the body is more sensitive to changes in gut bacteria than the central nervous system. What’s more — and this is the good news — I have seen dramatic turnarounds in brain-related conditions with simple dietary modifications and, on occasion, with more-aggressive techniques to reestablish a healthy microbiome.

If you’re wondering how to care for your own microbiome in a way that can change your brain for the better, check out my new book, Brain Maker. Here are some of the details of that program.

MEET YOUR SECOND BRAIN

Understanding just how closely the gut and the brain are related is essential.

Think of the last time you felt sick to your stomach because you were anxious, scared, or over-the-moon elated. Scientists are learning that this intimate relationship between the gut and the brain is bidirectional: Just as your brain can send butterflies to your stomach, your gut can relay its state of calm or alarm to the brain.

The vagus nerve, the longest of 12 cranial nerves, is the primary channel between millions of nerve cells in our intestinal nervous system (sometimes called the enteric nervous system) and our central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. “Vagus” is Latin for “wanderer,” an apt name for this nerve that runs outside the brain and through the digestive system. The vagus extends from the brain stem to the abdomen, directing many bodily processes that don’t require thought, like heart rate and digestion.

At the same time, the bacteria in the gut directly affect the function of the cells along the vagus nerve. And some of the gut’s nerve cells and microbes release neurotransmitters that speak to the brain in its own language.

The neurons in the gut are so innumerable that many scientists are now calling them the “second brain.” This second brain not only regulates muscle function, immune cells, and hormones, but also manufactures an estimated 80 to 90 percent of serotonin (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter).

This means the gut’s brain makes more serotonin — the master happiness molecule — than the brain in your head. Many neurologists and psychiatrists are now realizing that this may be one reason antidepressants are often less effective in treating depression than proper dietary changes.

There are other chemicals manufactured in the gut that are also critical for the nervous system. GABA is an amino acid produced by gut bacteria that calms nerve activity by inhibiting transmissions and normalizing brain waves, helping return the nervous system to a steadier state after it’s been excited by stress.

Glutamate, a neurotransmitter also produced by gut bacteria, is involved in cognition, learning, and memory. It is abundant in a healthy brain. A slew of neurological challenges — including anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, and Alzheimer’s — have been attributed to a lack of GABA and glutamate.

LEAKY GUT, LEAKY BRAIN

You may have heard about the perils of a leaky gut, where the protective junctions in the intestinal lining become compromised. This is a response to a variety of factors, including pathogenic bacteria, some medications, stress, environmental toxins, elevated blood sugar, and potentially gut-irritating food ingredients like gluten.

Once the intestinal barrier is compromised, undigested food particles leak into the bloodstream, where they elicit an immune response. This can create systemwide inflammation.

When your intestinal barrier is compromised, you become susceptible — due to that increased inflammation — to a spectrum of health challenges, including arthritis, eczema, allergies, and even autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. (For more on leaky gut syndrome, see “How to Heal a Leaky Gut“.)

Still, the problems of a leaky gut become even more monumental in light of new science that shows how loss of gut integrity can lead to a “leaky” brain.

We’ve long assumed that somehow the brain was insulated from what goes on in the rest of the body. You’ve heard about the highly protective, fortified portal keeping bad things out of the brain — the blood-brain barrier. We used to think of this barrier as an impenetrable wall.

The problems of a leaky gut become even more monumental in light of new science that shows how loss of gut integrity can lead to a “leaky” brain.

It has now become clear that many substances threaten its integrity. And once the brain’s barrier is compromised, various molecules that may spell trouble — including proteins, viruses, and bacteria — can get inside it.

For an example of how dangerous this can be, look at how the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) molecule behaves once it gets outside the gut.

LPS makes up the protective outer membrane of a class of bacteria that typically represents 50 to 70 percent of our intestinal flora. We’ve long known that LPS induces a violent inflammatoryresponse in animals if it finds its way into the bloodstream. It’s so violent that it’s also termed an endotoxin, a toxin that comes from within the bacterial cell.

In one critically important study on LPS, researchers at Texas Christian University showed that injections of LPS into lab animals’ bodies (not brains) led to overwhelming learning deficits, demonstrating that LPS was able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

In addition, the animals developed elevated levels of the protein beta-amyloid in their hippocampi, the brain’s memory center. (Beta-amyloid is strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s.)

Other studies have implicated LPS in memory problems and decreased production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that is critical for the growth of new brain cells.

This is powerful information that once again speaks to the gut-brain connection and the impact of inflammation, gut permeability, and the critical importance of a healthy gut to a healthy brain.

FOOD MATTERS

Perhaps the most significant factor related to the health of the microbiome — and thus, the brain — is the food we eat. It is also the greatest challenge to the microbiome and brain. Food matters enormously, trumping other factors in our lives that we may not be entirely able to control.

As I described in my previous book, Grain Brain, the two key mechanisms that lead to brain degeneration are chronic inflammation and the action of free radicals, which are byproducts of inflammation that cause the body to “rust.” (For an excerpt from Grain Brain, see “Overcoming Grain Brain“.)

Brain Maker takes a new look at these mechanisms to understand how they are influenced by gut bacteria and overall gut health. My recommendations are designed to treat and prevent brain disorders; alleviate moodiness, anxiety, and depression; bolster the immune system and reduce autoimmunity; and improve metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes and obesity, which factor into long-term brain health.

The idea that food is the most important variable in human health is not news. But our new understanding of the connection between what you eat and how it affects your microbiome, and your brain, is exciting.

You can change the state of your microbiome — and the fate of your health — through dietary changes, opening the door for better health in general, and improved brain function in particular. My plan, outlined on the following pages, can help you get started.

5 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR BRAIN THROUGH YOUR GUT

I am frequently asked how long it takes to rehabilitate a dysfunctional or underperforming microbiome.

Research shows that significant changes in the array of gut bacteria can take place in as little as six days after instituting a new dietary protocol, like the one I present in my book (the highlights of which I’m sharing here). But everyone is different; your Brain Maker rehab will depend on the current state of your gut and how quickly you commit to making changes.

1. EAT FOODS RICH IN PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that support good digestive health. Long before probiotics became available in supplement form, the health benefits of fermented, probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt were well recognized. The Chinese were fermenting -cabbage 6,000 years ago.

The type of fermentation that makes most foods rich in beneficial bacteria is called lactic-acid fermentation. In this process, good bacteria convert sugar molecules in food into lactic acid, and, in doing so, the good bacteria multiply. This lactic acid, in turn, protects the fermented food from being invaded by pathogenic -bacteria because it creates an environment with a low pH. This kills off harmful bacteria, which has a higher pH.

While supplements are helpful, there’s still no better way to consume bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (some of the most important healthy bacteria in the gut) than to get them from food sources, which are easiest for the body to use.

These probiotic bacteria help maintain the integrity of the gut lining; serve as natural antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals; regulate immunity; and control inflammation. They even improve nutrient absorption.

These are some of the best food sources for probiotics (for more ideas, visit “Probiotics at Work“):

Live-Culture Yogurt: Check the label to make sure your yogurt contains live cultures, and avoid products that are heavily sweetened. Coconut yogurt is an excellent alternative for people who are sensitive to dairy.

Kefir: A fermented-milk product that has a more liquid texture than yogurt.

Kombucha Tea: A tart, fizzy, fermented black tea.

Kimchi: Spicy, fermented vegetables that are Korean in origin. Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet.

Sauerkraut: Real, fermented sauerkraut (instead of cabbage soaked in vinegar) fuels healthy gut bacteria and contains choline, a chemical needed for proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain through the nervous system. You can make your own real sauerkraut at home or find it in the refrigerated section of grocery stores.

Pickles: The most basic and beloved probiotic. As with sauerkraut, choose real, brined pickles that have been refrigerated.

2. GO LOWER-CARB; EMBRACE HIGH-QUALITY FATS

A diet that keeps your blood sugar balanced keeps your gut bacteria balanced. A diet high in rich sources of fiber from whole vegetables and fruits feeds good gut bacteria and produces the right balance of short-chain fatty acids to keep the intestinal lining in check. A diet that’s intrinsically anti-inflammatory is good for the brain.

Diets high in sugar and low in fiber fuel unwanted bacteria and increase the chances of intestinal permeability, mitochondrial damage, a compromised immune system, and widespread inflammation that can reach the brain. It’s a vicious cycle; all of these further disrupt our protective microbial balance.

We’ve been taught to demonize saturated fat. But coronary artery disease — a leading cause of heart attacks — may have more to do with inflammation than high cholesterol. And a great deal of research shows that when cholesterol levels are low, the brain simply doesn’t work well.

Studies of deceased patients with Alzheimer’s found significantly reduced amounts of fats in their cerebrospinal fluid compared with controls. People with low cholesterol are at much greater risk for neurological problems, including depression and dementia.

I have a host of recipes in my book, but here’s the cheat sheet: Make your main entrée mostly fibrous vegetables and fruits that grow above ground, with protein as a side dish. Far too often people think that a low-carb diet is all about eating copious amounts of meat. Much to the contrary, an ideal plate in the Brain Maker protocol is a sizeable portion of vegetables (two-thirds of your plate) and about 3 to 4 ounces of protein. You’ll get your fats from those naturally found in the protein, from butter and olive oil used to prepare the dish, and from nuts and seeds.

3. ENJOY CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, WINE, AND TEA

You can rejoice in the fact that, as far as your brain’s health is concerned, you can embrace chocolate, coffee, and wine in moderation, and tea to your heart’s desire.

Research abounds concerning dark chocolate’s benefits. In one study, Italian researchers demonstrated that in elderly individuals suffering mild cognitive impairment, those who consumed the highest level of flavonols (one category of polyphenols) from cocoa and chocolate showed heightened cognitive function.

Other studies have shown that consuming flavonols leads to improved blood flow to the brain, which is typically diminished in dementia patients.

Like chocolate, coffee supports a healthy balance of gut flora and exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Coffee and chocolate also stimulate a specific gene pathway called the Nrf2 pathway. When triggered, it causes the body to make higher levels of protective antioxidants, while reducing inflammation and enhancing detoxification. Other Nrf2 activators are green tea, turmeric, and resveratrol, a compound in red wine.

On that note, Spanish researchers have found that LPS levels, a marker for both inflammation and intestinal permeability, were dramatically reduced in individuals who consumed red wine in moderation (one to two glasses per day).

Polyphenols found in black tea are now being explored for their ability to positively influence gut microbial diversity. They’ve been shown to increase bifidobacteria, which help stabilize gut permeability. Green tea has also been shown to increase bifidobacteria and to lower levels of potentially harmful bacteria species.

4. CONSUME FOODS RICH IN PREBIOTICS

Prebiotics are food-borne fuel for the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, and they occur naturally in raw garlic, cooked and raw onions, leeks, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, and jicama. Estimates suggest that for every 100 grams of prebiotic carbohydrates we consume, a full 30 grams of good gut bacteria are produced.

Prebiotics have many additional benefits, including the ability to reduce inflammation in inflammatory-bowel disorders, enhance mineral absorption, and promote a sense of satiety. Animals given prebiotics produce less ghrelin, the hormone that signals the brain that it’s time to eat.

5. DRINK FILTERED WATER

Consuming plenty of water is important to intestinal health, but it’s critical that the water doesn’t contain gut-busting chemicals like chlorine. Environmental toxins can disrupt the microbiome and disturb brain physiology.

I recommend using a household water filter. There are a variety of home water-treatment technologies available, from simple filtration pitchers to under-sink units with a separate spigot. Make sure the filter you buy removes chlorine as well as other contaminants, and be sure to maintain and change it regularly.

Finally, ditch plastic water bottles and choose reusable bottles made from stainless steel or glass instead.

From Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, MD. Copyright © 2015 by David Perlmutter, MD. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


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Leaky gut, leaky brain, eat your garlic and pickles by C Guthrie

pickles

Your intestines are home to a great deal of your digestive system, nervous system, and immune system. Here’s how to keep them healthy.

Modern life is hard on your gut. Your entire digestive tract can be affected by stress, processed foods, alcohol, medications, and bacteria.

All that chronic irritation can lead to inflammation and, eventually, to a lot of little pinprick-style leaks in the very thin and delicate lining of your intestinal wall.

And even a tiny leak can cause surprisingly big problems. A healthy gut is very selective about what gets passed into your body. But a leaky gut can release undigested food particles, bacteria, and toxins into your bloodstream, leading to a potentially outsized immune response.

If the damage to the lining of your gut is bad enough that such substances regularly leak through, it can wreak havoc on your health.

The long list of conditions associated with leaky gut syndrome (a.k.a. increased intestinal permeability) include acne, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autism, and many more.

The long list of conditions associated with leaky gut syndrome (a.k.a. increased intestinal permeability) include acne, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autism, and many more.

Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, recently discovered that leaky guts can even lead to autoimmune disorders.

And it’s a bit of a vicious cycle: “Our bodies can only fight so many fires at one time,” explains Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN, author of Digestive Wellness. “If someone is suffering from chronic stress, disease, or inflammation, the normal repair and maintenance of the gut gets deferred.”

What damages the gut? Lipski and other experts say the top culprits include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as well as sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and any foods that trigger an allergic response. Other irritants include chronic stress, toxins, and microbiome imbalances.

Given how commonplace such irritants have become in our lives, it’s not surprising that intestinal-permeability problems are pervasive, says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, coauthor of Real Cause, Real Cure: The 9 Root Causes of the Most Common Health Problems and How to Solve Them. “These days,” he asserts, “virtually everybody’s gut leaks to some degree.”

DAMAGE CONTROL

Leaky gut syndrome has been treated by the integrative and functional-medicine community for years. But now, more of mainstream medicine is acknowledging it, too.

So what’s changed? Our understanding of the microbiome, for one thing.

The discovery that human health and behavior are profoundly influenced by a huge population of microorganisms living predominantly in our guts shook up a lot of docs, says Leo Galland, MD, a conventionally trained internist in New York City who now serves as director of the Foundation for Integrative Medicine. “Western medicine’s acceptance of the leaky gut model has been nothing short of a sea change.”

Symptoms of a leaky gut vary. If the leakage is minor, symptoms will generally be confined to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, explains Tom Sult, MD, a Minnesota-based physician and author of Just Be Well. Typical results? Bloating, gas, or cramps.

More significant leaks are more likely to produce bodywide symptoms, he says, including fatigue, joint pain, rashes, respiratory issues, asthma, and autoimmune responses — including psoriasis.

More significant leaks are more likely to produce bodywide symptoms, he says, including fatigue, joint pain, rashes, respiratory issues, asthma, and autoimmune responses — including psoriasis.

As the condition of the gut degrades, notes Sult, the health impacts can be dramatic. So if you think you may be experiencing the symptoms of a leaky gut, it’s wise to address it promptly.

The good news, says Galland, is that the cells of the intestinal lining replace themselves every three to six days. This means that, given the proper support, your gut can repair itself quickly.

Here are the “five Rs” — remove, replace, reinoculate, repair, and rebalance — recommended by our panel of gut-health experts.

REMOVE

With leaky gut, the first step is to identify and remove the source of gut-lining irritation, rather than attempting to suppress its symptoms with drugs.

Start an elimination diet. Removing common irritants like sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, and the chemical additives found in many processed foods can provide surprisingly quick relief, says Galland, who notes that sugar alone is enough to cause gut problems for many. A properly conducted elimination diet can help you pinpoint which foods are causing trouble: Eliminate a food for two weeks, then reintroduce the food, and keep notes on its effects.

Begin a food journal. Write down what you eat and how it affects you. If you feel bloated, fatigued, or gassy, add that food to your elimination list. “Most likely,” says Lipski, “your gut is telling you what foods it is sensitive to. You just need to listen.”

Limit use of alcohol and NSAIDs

Alcohol taxes the liver and steals nutrients from the gut. NSAIDs inhibit the body’s production of prostaglandins, substances needed to rebuild the intestines’ lining. “If you use a full therapeutic dose of NSAIDs for two weeks, there is a 75 percent chance you will develop a leaky gut that doesn’t go away when you stop taking the drug,” says Galland. If you are dependent on NSAIDs for pain management, work to reduce your total load as much as possible, advises Sult.

Root out infections. Leaky gut can be instigated by any number of pathogenic microorganisms and parasites that thrive in the gut’s warm, mucosal environment. If food-level interventions aren’t helping, find a healthcare practitioner to run tests and treat you. Because “all the nutrients in the world won’t help you if you have a parasite,” says Lipski.

REPLACE
The second step is to give your body what it needs to rebuild the gut lining. Lipski likens the inside of the small intestine to a towel covered with millions of little loops (called villi), which in turn are covered with millions of little fibers (called microvilli). If the gut is leaky, those fibers get matted, hampering regrowth and the absorption of nutrients from food. It’s a vicious cycle, because the villi need those nutrients to revive.

Eat plenty of whole foods. The body needs the components in real, fresh food to repair damage and rebuild healthy new tissue. Whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, plus enzymes the small intestine needs to heal.

Prioritize nonstarchy vegetables and lean proteins. And eat plenty of good, whole-food fats — they help strengthen cellular membranes.

As your body heals, it will get rid of toxins and byproducts through your large intestine. You’ll need lots of fiber to eliminate that toxic waste material as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The best high-fiber foods are colorful vegetables, berries, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole-kernel grains. Aim for 30 grams of fiber a day. Lipski suggests supplementing with 1 to 2 tablespoons of psyllium seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, or oat bran. If you have gluten sensitivities or are doing an elimination diet, stick with flaxseeds (also a good source of omega-3s) or psyllium seeds, which you can sprinkle in smoothies, or on hot cereal or granola.

Many of our experts also suggest supplementing with a good multivitamin, since nutrient deficiencies commonly accompany leaky gut conditions, even in those eating a healthy, whole-food diet.

Take digestive enzymes

The villi and microvilli projections are covered with digestive enzymes that your body needs to break food into component parts: carbs, fats, and proteins. In a leaky gut, enzyme support is crucial to healing and rebuilding villi, says Sult.

Taking supplemental enzymes before you eat gives the GI tract a jump-start on digestion, making food easier to break down and nutrients easier to assimilate. Take one or two capsules with meals three times a day or as needed.

In most cases, the villi rebound over the course of a few weeks, but it may take well over a month, notes Sult. Only a small percentage of people will require lifetime enzymatic support

Supplement with glutamine

The most plentiful free amino acid in the body, glutamine supports immunity and digestion by fueling the cells that line the small intestine. “Glutamine heals the intestinal lining more than any other nutrient,” says Lipski. She recommends taking 10 to 20 grams daily.

Get more omega-3 fatty acids

The gut uses them to calm inflammation and rebuild healthy cell walls. In animal studies, adding essential fatty acids improved the tight junctions between the gut lining’s cells and enabled the gut to fend off additional injury.

In addition to recommending several helpings of omega-3-rich foods, including coldwater fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, and purslane, Sult advises many of his patients to take a daily concentrated fish-oil supplement, preferably one with at least 3,000 milligrams of EPA and DHA. Look for a fresh, high-quality refrigerated oil that is tested for heavy metals and other impurities.

REINOCULATE
Once your body has patched up the leaks in the gut, you need to help it grow a healthy layer of good bacteria — flora that help protect the GI tract and assist with digestion. These beneficial bacteria strengthen your immune system, improve metabolism, help your body make vitamins, and aid in the absorption of minerals. The two most important groups are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Once your body has patched up the leaks in the gut, you need to help it grow a healthy layer of good bacteria — flora that help protect the GI tract and assist with digestion.

Add a probiotic

High-intensity probiotic support rejuvenates and replenishes a microbiome damaged by antibiotics or a poor diet. Sult recommends a high-potency probiotic of at least 50 billion active cultures twice daily. For added insurance, he says, choose one that is enteric-coated, meaning it will ferry the bacteria through the stomach’s acid and release them into the alkaline intestines.

Eat fermented foods

To get your good probiotic bugs to stick around, says Sult, you’ve got to eat daily servings of prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, yogurt (dairy or nondairy), sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.

Other perks of fermented foods include lowered inflammation, increased blood-sugar control, and improved antioxidant status. “The only way to make a robust, permanent impact on gut flora, short of a fecal transplant, is with dietary change,” he says.

REPAIR AND REBALANCE
Once you’ve got your gut on the road to wellness, it’s time to focus on lasting lifestyle changes. Sliding back into the habits that caused your leaky gut will only invite the return of health problems you want to avoid. Here are two key strategies for supporting ongoing gut health:

Before taking your first bite, look at your food and take in its aroma. This will trigger the cephalic phase of digestion, an initial release of enzymes that help break down your food.

Eat mindfully. Before taking your first bite, look at your food and take in its aroma, advises Kathie Swift, MS, RDN, nutrition director for Food As Medicine at Washington’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of The Swift Diet. This will trigger the cephalic phase of digestion, an initial release of enzymes that help break down your food.

As you eat, chew thoroughly, paying attention to your food’s flavor and texture. Avoid multitasking or rushing while you eat. Take pauses and breaths between bites, allowing your digestive system to keep pace. (For more on digestive health, see “Functional Wellness, Part 3: Digestive Health“.)

Calm your central nervous system

Under stress, the body’s nervous system kicks into fight-or-flight mode — the opposite of its rest-and-digest mode. Recalibrate by cultivating a calmer, more centered state. Consider a daily meditation or yoga practice. Or on a stressful day, swap heavy weightlifting for a tai-chi class. “When you change your thoughts,” says Sult, “you change your physiology.”

Most of the problems associated with leaky gut syndrome occur in your small intestine, but all the organs of your digestion are involved — and impacted. The information here is compiled from Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, coauthor of Real Cause, Real Cure, and Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN, author of Digestive Wellness.

Mouth: Not chewing food thoroughly can be a setup for digestive troubles. Mechanically breaking your food down to a liquid state makes your stomach’s job easier. It also mixes in digestive enzymes that begin dissolving proteins, carbs, and fats even before you swallow.

Stomach: Your stomach digests food with enzymes and acids, distilling it into a slurry that moves into the small intestine. If digestion is incomplete, food particles enter the small intestine. And if the gut lining there is irritated, those particles can pass into the bloodstream, setting the stage for inflammation and food sensitivities. Incomplete digestion can negatively affect your assimilation of nutrients and encourage the overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts.

Lymphoid Tissue: Throughout your small intestine, lymphoid tissues called Peyer’s patches are your first defense against pathogens sneaking through the gut lining. They are an important player in your immune system — about two-thirds of which is located in the gut. We eat about five pounds of food daily; our body’s digestive and immune systems have to process it all, filtering or neutralizing anything problematic — like food-borne chemicals and bacteria — from the good stuff our body needs. It’s a big job. Add undigested food particles to the mix, and the immune system can become overtaxed.

Large Intestine: As your large intestine continues to break down food, the colon extracts water from the slurry for use elsewhere in the body. A solid stool of waste forms and is sent to the rectum. In the absence of adequate fiber, however, elements of slow-moving waste can reenter the system, creating a variety of inflammatory and toxicity problems throughout the body.

Small Intestine: Your small intestine is like a 25-foot-long conveyor belt. Only tiny, digested molecules of fats, proteins, and starches are absorbed through the intestine walls into the bloodstream. But if you have leaky gut syndrome, the filter is defunct and large molecules leach into the bloodstream, where the immune system attacks them.

Gut Lining: The lining, or mucosa, is just one-cell thick (thinner than tissue paper) and has the total surface area of a tennis court. Keeping that lining intact is a big job — particularly if it’s under a continuous assault from processed foods, sugar, food intolerances, stress, toxins, alcohol, infections, and medications that irritate and inflame it. That chronic inflammation can eventually lead to leaky gut syndrome.

Tight Junctions: Your gut lining is made of millions of single cells; tight junctions form the seals between them. When these get irritated and inflamed, they loosen up, allowing undigested food particles to slip through into the bloodstream, triggering food allergies and stressing the immune system.

THE FOOD-ALLERGY CONNECTION

When you have a leaky gut, your gut lining allows larger-than-normal molecules of food to pass into your bloodstream. If a particle of undigested corn, for example, leaks through, your body may treat it like a foreign invader, attacking it just to get rid of it. “From that point, corn receives a physiological tag telling your immune system it’s a bad guy,” explains Lipski. And so a food allergy is born.

THE AUTOIMMUNE CONNECTION

Every autoimmune disease has three components, explains Alessio Fasano, MD: a genetic predisposition, an environmental trigger, and a leaky gut. The presence of undigested food particles and other noxious substances can play a big role in putting your immune system into overdrive and turning against the body itself — the classic onset of an autoimmune disorder.

ELIMINATION DIET

The Institute for Functional Medicine is pleased to provide Experience Life readers with access to IFM’s proprietary Elimination Diet Comprehensive Guide and Food Plan. Please click HERE to view and download IFM’s Elimination Diet.

BY CATHERINE GUTHRIE
Catherine Guthrie is a Boston-based science writer and contributing editor to Experience Life.

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