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Probiotic Use is a Link Between Brain Fogginess, Severe Bloating

Probiotic use can result in a significant accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine that can result in disorienting brain fogginess as well as rapid, significant belly bloating, investigators report.

In a published study of 30 patients, the 22 who reported problems like confusion and difficulty concentrating, in addition to their gas and bloating, were all taking probiotics, some several varieties.

When investigators looked further, they found large colonies of bacteria breeding in the patients’ small intestines, and high levels of D-lactic acid being produced by the bacteria lactobacillus’ fermentation of sugars in their food, says Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, director of neurogastroenterology/motility and the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

D-lactic acid is known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells, interfering with cognition, thinking and sense of time. They found some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood. Some said their brain fogginess – which lasted from a half hour to many hours after eating – was so severe that they had to quit their jobs.

The report in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology appears to be the first time the connection has been made between brain fogginess, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, high levels of D-lactic acid in the gut and probiotic use, Rao says.

“What we now know is that probiotic bacteria have the unique capacity to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid. So if you inadvertently colonize your small bowel with probiotic bacteria, then you have set the stage for potentially developing lactic acidosis and brain fogginess,” Rao says.

While probiotics can be beneficial in some scenarios, like helping a patient restore his gut bacteria after taking antibiotics, the investigators advised caution against its excessive and indiscriminate use.

“Probiotics should be treated as a drug, not as a food supplement,” Rao says, noting that many individuals self-prescribe the live bacteria, which are considered good for digestion and overall health.

Others have implicated probiotics in the production of D-lactic acid – and brain fogginess – in patients with a short bowel so their small intestine does not function properly, and in newborns fed formula containing the popular product. Short bowel syndrome results in a lot of undigested carbohydrates that are known to cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, and the high levels of D-lactic acid. Severe liver and kidney problems can produce similar problems.

Whether there was also a connection when the gut is intact was an unknown. “This is the first inroad,” says Rao.

All patients experiencing brain fogginess took probiotics and SIBO was more common in the brain fogginess group as well, 68 percent compared to 28 percent, respectively. Patients with brain fogginess also had a higher prevalence of D-lactic acidosis, 77 versus 25 percent, respectively.

When brain-foggy patients stopped taking probiotics and took a course of antibiotics, their brain fogginess resolved.

Movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract was slow in one third of the brain foggy patients and one fourth of the other group. Slower passage, as well as things like obesity surgery, can increase the chance of bacterial buildup, or SIBO.

“Now that we can identify the problem, we can treat it,” Rao says. Diagnosis includes breath, urine and blood tests to detect lactic acid, and an endoscopy that enables examination of fluid from the small intestines so the specific bacteria can be determined and the best antibiotics selected for treatment.

Normally there is not much D-lactic acid made in the small intestines, but probiotic use appears to change that. SIBO, which was present in most with brain fogginess, can cause bacteria to go into a feeding frenzy that ferments sugars resulting in production of uncomfortable things like hydrogen gas and methane that explain the bloating.

probiotics

Probiotics added to that feeding frenzy the bacterium lactobacillus, which produces D-lactic acid as it breaks down sugars, The acid get absorbed in the blood and can reach the brain.

All those with brain fogginess, SIBO and/or D-lactic acidosis, were given antibiotics that targeted their bacterial population and asked to discontinue probiotics. Those without SIBO were asked to halt probiotics and stop eating yogurt, which is considered one of the best sources of probiotics. Those with SIBO and D-lactic acidosis but no brain fogginess also took antibiotics.

Following treatment, 70 percent of patients reported significant improvement in their symptoms and 85 percent said their brain fogginess was gone. Those without brain fogginess but with SIBO and high levels of D-lactic acid reported significant improvement in symptoms like bloating and cramping within three months.

Abdominal pain was the most common symptom in both groups and before treatment, six of those with brain fogginess reported a tremendous increase in their abdominal size within just a few minutes of eating.

All patients received extensive examination of their gastrointestinal tract, including a motility test, to rule out other potential causes of their symptoms. They filled out questionnaires about symptoms like abdominal pain, belching and gas and answered questions about related issues like antibiotic and probiotic use as well as food fads and yogurt consumption.

They were given carbohydrates followed by extensive metabolic testing looking at the impact on things like blood glucose and insulin levels. Levels of D-lactic acid and L-lactate acid, which results from our muscles’ use of glucose as energy and can cause muscle cramps, also were measured.

Probiotic use may be particularly problematic for patients who have known problems with motility, as well as those taking opioids and proton pump inhibitors, which reduce stomach acid secretion and so the natural destruction of excessive bacteria.

Probiotics are supposed to work in the colon and not the small intestines or stomach, Rao says, so motility issues can result in problems with probiotic bacteria reaching the proper place. A wide variety of problems, from conditions like diabetes to drugs like antidepressants and minerals like iron, can slow movement and increase the possibility that probiotics will remain too long in the upper gut where they can cause harm, he says.

Probiotics definitely can help, for example, people who have gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, or are left with diarrhea and other problems after antibiotics wipe out their natural gut bacteria, Rao says.

“In those situations, we want to build up their bacterial flora so probiotics are ideal,” he says.

Rao’s pursuit of a possible connection between probiotics, brain fogginess and bloating started with a memorable patient who developed significant amounts of both problems within a minute of eating.

“It happened right in front of our eyes,” Rao says of the dramatic abdominal distention. They knew the woman had diabetes, which can slow motility. When they looked in the blood and urine at a variety of metabolic compounds, they found the high levels of D-lactic acid and soon learned the patient used probiotics and regularly ate yogurt.

Next steps include additional studies in which the investigators better quantify and characterize the brain fogginess reported by patients and following patients for longer periods to ensure their problems remain resolved. Some patients in the current study required a couple of rounds of antibiotics, Rao notes.

Good food sources of probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and dark chocolate, which are generally safe because of the small amounts of bacteria present, Rao says.

The 19-foot long small intestine has been a bit of an understudied organ, likely in part because it’s hard to visualize via the mouth or anus, Rao says. “I think the small bowel can be a source of huge mystery,” Rao says.

Your helpful gut bacteria, or microbiome, which are essential to things like a well-functioning immune system and general health, are largely in the large intestine and colon.

 

Story Source:
Materials provided by Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
August 6, 2018
 
Journal Reference:
Satish S. C. Rao, Abdul Rehman, Siegfried Yu, Nicole Martinez de Andino.
Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: a link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis.
Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, 2018; 9 (6) DOI: 10.1038/s41424-018-0030-7
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Gut Bacteria can Directly Affect Anxiety, Behavior and Emotional Health

4 Tips to Balance your Gut from a Holistic Therapist.

When treating those with anxiety, my clients and I work together to help balance different aspects of life: body, mind and spirit.  Science is showing us that cultivating good digestive health is a crucial piece of the treatment puzzle. Research is showing that the bacteria in your gut can directly affect your behavior and emotions…. This might be surprising for many, however it’s a critical, and often overlooked factor in treating anxiety. Healing and restoring balance to one’s digestive tract, ideally with the help of an integrative medical doctor can make a huge difference in symptoms. Your digestive tract can be damaged by chronic stress, medication use and exposure to foods that aren’t great for your body (to name a few). Many factors besides poor digestive health may contribute to your symptoms.  Maybe you’re in an unhealthy relationship, suffer from low self-esteem, struggle with panic attacks, or worry needlessly about little things.  No matter what the issues that are contributing to your anxiety, experiencing it can leave you feeling isolated, scared and mentally exhausted. When it comes to treating emotional distress, utilizing multiple agents of change is the most beneficial way to experience relief. For example, when treating anxiety, it’s extremely beneficial not only to receive therapy, but also to change your diet, exercise, patterns of self-talk, methods of self-care and introduce relaxation techniques.  Working on balancing your gut flora can be a very healing addition to the aforementioned therapies. While research is still emerging, science is supporting the idea that your gut bacteria affects your emotional health. Dr. Michael Gershon first brought this groundbreaking science to the public with his lab studies with rodents. He was first prompted to study the connection because of his interest in serotonin; 90% of our serotonin is produced and manufactured in the gut! He wrote, The Second Brain, which describes the role of the digestive tract in regulating emotional health and decision making.

Some fascinating research has been conducted to further this idea. Researchers swapped the bacteria in anxious mice and fearless mice by changing diet, adding antibiotics or adding probiotics. They found that the timid mice actually started taking more risks and acting more gregarious and the opposite also happened: the fearless mice acted more timid. In a 2013 study published in Gastroenterology, researchers studied the effects of probiotics in humans. After 4 weeks of ingesting probiotics, they scanned the brains of each participant. The researchers found subtle signs that the brain circuits involved in anxiety were less reactive.

probiotics

But, how do the brain and the gut communicate? The brain and the gut are in constant communication via the vagus nerve, a large nerve that connects the two. The concept of “gut feeling” and butterflies in your stomach is actually a real thing! In a study conducted in Ireland, researchers found that when the vagus nerve was cut in mice, they no longer saw the brain respond based on changes to the rodent’s gut flora.  Scientists have also begun to study certain neurochemicals that have not been described before being produced by certain bacteria, thus suggesting that gut microbes can produce their own version of neurotransmitters. This is another way that gut microbes may communicate with the brain. Pretty fascinating, right?!

Wondering how to nourish your digestive tract? Here are 4 tips.

1.)    Start eating more and more WHOLE foods. Limit processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Choose fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and lean proteins.  Check out this article from Dr. Mark Hyman on the subject. Start with small changes. Choose a sweet potato instead of fries, eat half of your dessert rather than the whole plate, or order an open faced sandwich. Changes should feel do-able, not overwhelming and anxiety producing!

2.)    Increase your body/food awareness. Notice how you feel after eating. Take note of fatigue, bloating, anxiety, gas, reflux or any other symptoms that you might be experiencing. This will allow you to start mapping patterns and become aware of what foods might be troublesome for you. If you continually eat foods that don’t react well to your body, it can damage your delicate digestive lining and balance of good bacteria.  Log your findings for at least a week.

3.)    Eat foods rich in probiotics. This can include yogurt, kefir, fermented foods and sauerkraut.

4.)    Reduce Stress. Stress can damage your very thin digestive lining. Practice relaxation techniques, meditate, use positive self-talk and engage in activities that bring joy. Managing stress will help you to heal from the inside out and also reduce anxiety symptoms.

Most of all, if you are struggling with anxiety, reach out for help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety or your doctor. Relief from symptoms is possible!

Wishing you the best of health

By Meghan Toups MS            September 22, 2014

About the Author: Meghan Toups is a frequent contributor on Expanded Consciousness, she is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. Meghan also received her health coaching certification and training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. 


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8 Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger Health Benefits: 8 Reasons Why This Root Rules Winter

The Huffington Post Canada    By Arti Patel    03/11/2016

Ginger may only be an option when you’re sick, but there’s good reason to get a dose of it every day.

Ginger has a long list of health benefits from fighting indigestion to boosting immunity, and since the cold and flu season seems to be sticking around, it’s time to learn about what this root can do for you.

Although fresh ginger can be a little intimidating (and spicy!), there are easy ways to consume it says registered dietitian Selena Devries of Kelowna B.C..

“You can simply grate it, skin and all, into recipes,” she tells The Huffington Post Canada. “And to keep it fresh, store it in the freezer with the skin on and take out as needed.”

If you’re new to ginger (or just can’t handle the taste), try a powdered form and mix it into teas or your meals. You can also start adding ginger to the meals you eat on a regular basis — like oatmeal, stir-fry or sauteed veggies.

“Ginger can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Eating it traditionally pickled will also provide a good dose of probiotics helping to boost your immune system,” she adds.

Eight reasons why ginger should be considered winter’s best superfood

ginger-root-sliced

Reduce Nausea
One of the most well known benefits of ginger is to help with reducing nausea, says registered dietitian Selena Devries of Kelowna B.C.. “Try making ginger tea by steeping a one-inch root in one to two cups of hot water for about 10 minutes,” she says. “Sweeten with a dash of honey.”

It Can Help With Indigestion
Upset stomach? Try chewing on candied or crystallized ginger. According to author Gerard E. Mullin of The Inside Tract, ginger helps the stomach to efficiently empty it’s contents.

Ginger Is Anti-Inflammatory
Devries says if you’re suffering from any type of inflammatory disease, ginger is a great root to add to your diet. “It is packed with gingerols and volatile oils which help to decrease inflammation in the body.”

Goodbye Flatulence
Are you always gassy, bloated or burping? Ginger has a carminative effect, Devries says, meaning it is able to break up and reduce intestinal gas. “Sprinkle fresh ginger on oatmeal, stir-fry and veggie side dishes.”

Sooth Your Muscle Cramps
“Because of ginger’s powerful anti-inflammatory effect, it helps to relieve muscle cramping,” Devries says. If you develop muscle cramps after workouts, try drinking a smoothie with frozen bananas, pineapple, turmeric, hemp hearts, ginger and a milk of your choice.

It’s A Natural Immune Booster
There’s a reason you’re told to drink ginger tea when you’re sick. “Lacto-fermented ginger is a great source of good gut bacteria which will boost the immune system, and help to prevent you from getting sick,” Devries adds. Try fermenting ginger at home or buy a ginger-flavoured kombucha at your local supermarket.

It’s High In Antioxidants
“Antioxidants, which are found in a variety of plant-based foods, help to repair the damage done by harmful, free radicals in the body,” she says. For a high dose of antioxidants, try a ginger tonic.

Reduce Menstrual Pain
One study found ginger was effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain during your period, Devries notes. “Although this is just one study, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to up your intake of ginger during your period.”