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Massive Study Yields Exciting Findings about Gut Health and the Microbiome

Gut health could be the biggest trend in the health field right now. Everywhere I turn people are discussing the importance of their gut health and how it is linked to their overall health, as well as the benefits of probiotics. And, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that what happens in our gut expands well beyond the gut.

Now new research shows that the health of your gut is significantly influenced by what you eat. A new study assessed 15096 fecal samples provided by 11336 people, published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, found some exciting facts about gut health and the microbiome, which is the total of all the microbes in a living being.

We each have a microbiome and no two microbiomes are alike, although there can be some similarities between them. The microbiome is a sort of microbial fingerprint. And, thanks to the new research, we have greater insight into the effect of diet on our microbiome. Here are some of the findings from this exciting study:

1) Plant-based diets produce the most diverse microbiomes. Diverse microbiomes seem to confer health benefits. Consider people who struggle to lose weight: earlier research in the journal Beneficial Microbes shows that they tend to have less diverse strains of beneficial bacteria and a lower ratio of beneficial microbes to harmful ones.

2) Eating more than 30 types of plant foods weekly yields the most diverse microbiome. In other words, it’s important to eat a plant-based diet but also one that has tremendous diversity. So, expand your horizons when it comes to trying new vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Your microbiome will thank you. And, who knows? You might even discover a new favorite food.

3) There is a lower incidence of bacterial resistance in those who eat the greatest variety of plant foods weekly. This is great news since more and more varieties of harmful bacteria like E. coli and MRSA are, not only becoming more prevalent, they are also becoming resistant to the typical drug treatment: antibiotics. This is an astounding discovery on its own. We tend to assume that all of a certain variety of bacteria have the same level of potency against humans, but the research shows that people who eat a large variety of plant-based foods are less likely to be host to these disease-causing, resistant bacteria. People who ate more than 30 types of plant foods weekly had less resistance to antibiotics.

4) The gut bacteria of people suffering from mental health issues, including: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder were more similar to others suffering from mental disorders than to those who do not suffer from mental disorders. While the scientists conducting the study did not draw any conclusions, there may be a possible connection between gut health and mental health. Certainly other research suggests that is indeed the case. Research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found a link between gut bacteria and increased activity in brain pathways that improve brain health and reduce depression risk.

microbiome

How can you reap the benefits of this exciting research?

There are endless ways to boost the variety of plant-based foods you consume, but the following ones should help you get started:

  1.    Start by replacing meat in your diet with plant-based options. Start with Meatless Mondays but don’t hesitate to go meatless the rest of the week as well
  2.    The next time you pass by that odd-looking fruit or vegetable in the produce section of your grocery store, add it to your cart. It’s easy enough to find recipes for lesser-known foods using a quick Internet search. And, most importantly, add the food to your diet.
  3.    Instead of just snacking on almonds or another nut, branch out to try Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc. Choose raw, unsalted varieties.
  4.    Rather than just add a can of kidney beans to your soup, stew, or chili, opt for bean varieties you are less familiar with. That could include: chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, Romano beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.
  5.    The next time a snack attack strikes, choose a piece of fruit or a bowl of mixed berries.
  6.    When you have a craving for salty foods, choose traditionally-fermented pickles, pickled green beans, pickled beets or other foods with live cultures. Not only will you be getting a wider variety and a greater quantity of plant-based foods, you’ll also help expand the beneficial microbes you consume. Be sure to choose pickled foods that state “live cultures” or “unpasteurized” on the label.

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook May 31, 2018
 Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook
 
source: www.care2.com
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The Microbiome: The Key to Optimal Health

Here’s how the microbiome—the colony go micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—
might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

Imagine that from the time you’re born, your body is hosting a daily house party. Who’s on the guest list? Roughly 40 trillion of your tiniest, closest friends. And like any lively party, there’s a mix of good and bad guests. This community of micro-organisms, which includes bac­teria, viruses, fungi and yeast, is collectively known as microbiota, or our microbiome. It’s often called the ‘forgotten organ’ and could be considered one of our largest in terms of cells. In fact, recent research suggests that we have around the same number of bacterial cells as human cells. During a natural birth, you’re first exposed to bacteria from your mother, and it’s estimated that your ecosystem is largely established by age three. We’re used to thinking of bugs as unwanted party crashers, but researchers are discovering that they play an important role in our overall well-being and may hold the key to a host of health-related issues.

MEET YOUR MICROBIOME
If it seems like the word micro­biome just recently appeared on your radar, you’re not alone. It was only in 2008 that the National Institutes of Health Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project was established to under­stand the microbiome and how it impacts the way our bodies function.

‘We knew that the microbiome was there, but we thought of it only as external and not really in our body. As research expands in this area, we’re discovering how much influence it has on well-being,’ says Kathy McCoy, the director of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre and a professor at the Cumming School of Medicine in Calgary. ‘One thing we know for sure is that good bacteria benefit our health.’

HAPPY GUT = HEALTHY LIFE
Our gut houses the bulk of our bugs and can carry more than 1,000 different species. The hot spot is the large intestine, which is the most highly colonized by bacteria. ‘Bacteria help us digest foods we otherwise couldn’t, such as complex carbohydrates,’ says McCoy. ‘They increase our meta­bolic capacity, produce vitamins we can’t make ourselves and break down food so our bodies get needed nutrients.’

A healthy gut can determine which nutrients are absorbed and which toxins are blocked. ‘The state of our gut microbiota has drastically changed as we’ve transformed our diets, specifically due to a loss of fibre intake,’ says McCoy. ‘The consumption of more processed foods has negatively influenced the makeup of our microbiota.’

The key to a well-functioning microbiome is a diversity of good bacteria. The latest research shows how our micro­biome can affect our immunity, weight and mood, and reveals how you can nurture and strengthen your gut to improve your health.

BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
‘Unlike genes or genetic disorders that are hardwired, we can manipulate our microbiome to some degree,’ says McCoy. By nurturing our gut to create a healthy microbiota, we equip it with better ammunition to fight potential invaders, such as bad bacteria (salmonella, for example), making it a strong ally for our immune system.

‘Over the past 50 years, in developing countries, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, has skyrocketed—and some, like Type 1 diabetes, are occurring at a younger age. At the same time, there’s a strong belief that the diversity in our microbiota has decreased,’ she says. By not supporting and nurturing our microbiome, we leave it less able to protect itself and more vulner­able to invaders. ‘The immune system in your gut needs to be equip­ped like an army, alert to recog­nize potential danger and armed to fight disease-causing microbes and pathogens,’ says McCoy.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Trying to shed a few pounds? Take a closer look at the health of your gut flora. ‘A study found that the micro­biota from obese people thrives on low-fibre, high-fat and high-sugar diets,’ says McCoy. Also, research suggests that certain bugs may make you desire specific foods, yet others can keep cravings in check. And multiple studies have demonstrated that if your microbiome is unbalanced, it can affect how efficiently food is metabolized.

IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
There might be more to that ‘gut feeling’ we get. ‘There’s evidence that some bacteria residing in the gut can affect the brain and your emotional state,’ says McCoy. Researchers are working to unlock the gut-brain connection and believe that the micro­biome could hold the answer to a number of mental health conditions. ‘Researchers are finding that changes in the microbiota might be linked to gastrointestinal abnormalities, including anxiety, depr­es­sion, autism and hyperactivity. And there are also studies focusing on the pathway between the gut and several neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,’ says McCoy.

4 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR MICROBIOME

1. Feed your microbiome 
One of the best—and easiest—ways to positively impact the gut is through diet. Start by increasing your fibre intake, found in grains, fruit and vegetables. Aim for 25 grams of fibre a day. Avoid high-fat and high-sugar diets, as they promote an unhealthy environment. Instead, eat foods that are full of variety, and include an abundance of fresh produce.

2. Fuel it with fermented foods
Populate the gut with good bacteria by filling up on foods with live and active cultures, such as kefir and some yogurts, and raw, unpasteurized fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickled vegetables and sauerkraut. Support digestive health and nourish the gut lining to more efficiently absorb nutrients by adding a scoop of a fermented yogurt protein powder to your morning smoothie.

3. Pop a probiotic 
‘Although our bodies have bacteria, environmental chemicals, poor nutrition, stress and medication easily affect their diversity. Choose a probiotic with 50 to 100 billion active bact­e­ria,’ says Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Sara Celik. We like a probiotic that’s jam-packed with 50 billion active cultures from 10 strains of bacteria, which is ideal for strengthening the immune system.

4. Monitor antibiotic use
Avoid the overuse of antibiotics, which can reduce the number of bacteria in your gut and break down its ability to resist infection from bad bacteria. ‘They’re drugs that don’t discriminate and kill all forms of bacteria—both good and bad—and can adversely alter the composition of your entire gut flora, which, we believe, is contributing to a host of chronic diseases,’ warns McCoy.

BY: GRACE TOBY         OCT 19, 2017 


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Homemade Yogurt Resolves Irritable Bowel Symptoms

The daily consumption of homemade yogurt can lead to a complete resolution of symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a prospective study shows.

“We were surprised by the response. We had 189 patients in the study, and 169 had remission within 6 months,” said Manju Girish Chandran, MBBS, from the Mary Breckinridge ARH Hospital in Hyden, Kentucky.

And some of the participants had lived with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for 9 or 10 years, she reported here at the World Congress of Gastroenterology.

“Our study is based on the fact that there is an internal gut–brain microbiome axis,” Dr Chandran told Medscape Medical News. “If you modulate the intestinal microbiome, you can actually achieve remission in some cases.”

Medication does not adequately treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for many people, she said. As a result, “they just live with it.”

That is one of the reasons Dr Chandran and her colleagues wanted to assess the potential of homemade yogurt with Lactobacilli to influence the gut microbiome.

Part of a Regular Diet

For their study, the team enrolled 189 consecutive patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome at one of two medical centers in Eastern Kentucky.

Patients were instructed to consume 2 to 3 cups of yogurt every day and record their symptoms in a chart. Their responses were assessed every 2 months for 6 months.

Complete remission — defined as the relief of pre-existing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and one or two normal bowel movements daily — was achieved by 89% of the study participants.

The yogurt is inexpensive and easy to make. First, boil a gallon of milk for 5 minutes and let it cool to lukewarm. Next, mix in 1 cup of Dannon plain yogurt, which is used as a starter and source of Lactobacilli. Place in an oven with the light on overnight (do not turn the oven on), and then refrigerate the next morning. Save 1 cup from each batch to use as a starter for the next batch.

“You can make enough yogurt for 1 week, and it’s pretty cheap,” Dr Chandran pointed out. “And it doesn’t have to be eaten as plain yogurt.” Because it can be mixed with fruit or used in a smoothie, it doesn’t “feel like it’s a medicine; it is part of a regular diet.”

Results Difficult to Interpret

The study design makes the results difficult to interpret, which is disappointing, said William Heizer, MD, a gastroenterologist in private practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“At the very least, the consenting patients should have been randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group,” Dr Heizer told Medscape Medical News. Also, “review of the self-reported charts should have been done by individuals blinded to which group the patient was in.”

This was a pilot study, Dr Chandran explained. The next step will be to study the effectiveness of the homemade yogurt in patients with different subtypes of irritable bowel syndrome — constipation or diarrhea — and to randomize some participants to a control group.

Dr Chandran and Dr Heizer have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Damian McNamara      December 07, 2017
 
SOURCE: Medscape, December 07, 2017.
The World Congress of Gastroenterology at the ACG 2017:
Abstract P1152. Presented October 16, 2017.


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Gut Bacteria ‘Boost’ Cancer Therapy

Bacteria living in the murky depths of the digestive system seem to influence whether tumours shrink during cancer therapy, say French and US researchers.

They tested the microbiome – the collection of microscopic species that live in us – in cancer patients.
Two studies, in the journal Science, linked specific species and the overall diversity of the microbiome to the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs.

Experts said the results were fascinating and held a lot of promise.

Our bodies are home to trillions of micro-organisms and the relationship between “us” and “them” goes far beyond infectious diseases.

The microbiome is involved in digestion, protection from infection and regulating the immune system.

  • Gut bugs ‘help prevent allergies’
  • Parkinson’s disease ‘may start in gut’

Both studies were on patients receiving immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s own defences to fight tumours.

It does not work in every patient, but in some cases it can clear even terminal cancer.

Survival

One study, at the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus in Paris, looked at 249 patients with lung or kidney cancer.

They showed those who had taken antibiotics, such as for dental infection, damaged their microbiome and were more likely to see tumours grow while on immunotherapy.

One species of bacteria in particular, Akkermansia muciniphila, was in 69% of patients that did respond compared with just a third of those who did not.

Boosting levels of A. muciniphila in mice seemed to also boost their response to immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 112 patients with advanced melanoma had their microbiome analysed.

Those that responded to therapy tended to have a richer, more diverse microbiome than those that did not.

And they had different bacteria too. High levels of Faecalibacterium and Clostridiales appeared to be beneficial, while Bacteroidales species were bad news in the study.

‘Game-changing’

Tissues samples showed there were more cancer-killing immune cells in the tumour of people with the beneficial bacteria.

The team then performed a trans-poo-sion, a transplant of faecal matter, from people to mice with melanoma.

Mice given bacteria from patients with the “good” mix of bacteria had slower-growing tumours than mice given “bad” bacteria.

Dr Jennifer Wargo, from Texas, told the BBC: “If you disrupt a patient’s microbiome you may impair their ability to respond to cancer treatment.”
She is planning clinical trials aimed at altering the microbiome in tandem with cancer treatment.
She said: “Our hypothesis is if we change to a more favourable microbiome, you just may be able to make patients respond better.
“The microbiome is game-changing, not just cancer but for overall health, it’s definitely going to be a major player.”

Promising

Mark Fielder, president of the Society for Applied Microbiology and professor of medical biology at Kingston University, said the study showed the importance of understanding the micro-organisms that call our bodies home.

He told the BBC: “It’s really interesting and holds a lot of promise, we need to do more work but there are exciting glimmers here in treating some difficult diseases.
“Some claim the microbiome is the answer to everything, I don’t think that’s the case.
“But once we understand more, it could be that microbiome manipulation is important in changing people’s health.”

Dr Emma Smith from Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s fascinating.

“One of the big challenges for using immunotherapies to treat cancer is understanding which patients will respond, and this research is a step towards helping doctors to identify these people.”

By James Gallagher    Health and science correspondent, BBC News    3 November 2017 
 
source: www.bbc.com


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Gut Microbes Linked To Brain Structure In People With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 Summary:
Research shows for the first time an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. Also, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and gut microbiome composition.

A new study by researchers at UCLA has revealed two key findings for people with irritable bowel syndrome about the relationship between the microorganisms that live in the gut and the brain.

For people with IBS research shows for the first time that there is an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. The results suggest that signals generated by the brain can influence the composition of microbes residing in the intestine and that the chemicals in the gut can shape the human brain’s structure.

Additionally, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and the composition of the gut microbiome.

Previous studies performed in mice have demonstrated effects of gut microbiota on brain function and behavior, as well as the influence of the brain on the composition of microbes in the gut. However, to date, only one study performed in human subjects has confirmed the translatability of such findings to the human brain.

Studies have also reported evidence for alterations in the composition of gut microbiota in people with irritable bowel syndrome, but there has been little consistency among studies regarding the specific microbial alterations and the relationship of such alterations with the cardinal symptoms of IBS, recurring abdominal pain and altered bowel habits.

In relation to a person’s history with childhood trauma, it has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes; trauma in young children has also been shown to alter gut microbial composition. But how they are related has been unknown.

The UCLA researchers collected behavioral and clinical measures, stool samples and structural brain images from 29 adults diagnosed with IBS, and 23 healthy control subjects. They used DNA sequencing and various mathematical approaches to quantify composition, abundance and diversity of the gut microbiota. They also estimated the microbial gene content and gene products of the stool samples. Then the researchers cross-referenced these gut microbial measures with structural features of the brain.

Based on the composition of the microbes in the gut, the samples from those diagnosed with IBS clustered into two subgroups. One group was indistinguishable from the healthy control subjects, while the other differed. Those in the group with an altered gut microbiota had more history of early life trauma and longer duration of IBS symptoms.

The two groups also displayed differences in brain structure.

Analysis of a person’s gut microbiota may become a routine screening test for people with IBS in clinical practice, and in the future, therapies such as certain diets and probiotics may become personalized based on an individual’s gut microbial profile. At the same time, subgroups of people with IBS distinguished by brain and microbial signatures may show different responsiveness to brain-directed therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy and targeted drugs.

A history of early life trauma has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes and to alter gut microbial composition. It is possible that the signals the gut and its microbes get from the brain of an individual with a history of childhood trauma may lead to lifelong changes in the gut microbiome. These alterations in the gut microbiota may feed back into sensory brain regions, altering the sensitivity to gut stimuli, a hallmark of people with IBS.

 
Story Source:
Materials provided by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
 
Journal Reference:
Jennifer S. Labus, Emily B. Hollister, Jonathan Jacobs, Kyleigh Kirbach, Numan Oezguen, Arpana Gupta, Jonathan Acosta, Ruth Ann Luna, Kjersti Aagaard, James Versalovic, Tor Savidge, Elaine Hsiao, Kirsten Tillisch, Emeran A. Mayer. Differences in gut microbial composition correlate with regional brain volumes in irritable bowel syndrome. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0260-z
 
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.
“Gut microbes linked to brain structure in people with irritable bowel syndrome.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2017.
 
source:  University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences    www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170505151656.htm


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Are Gut Bacteria Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Intestinal bacteria yield clues to the mysterious ailment, researchers say

Scientists have found differences in the gut bacteria of people with chronic fatigue syndrome versus their healthy peers.

The finding is among the first to link abnormalities in the makeup of gut bacteria – the “microbiome” – and chronic fatigue, a mysterious and debilitating malady.

Whether these differences are merely a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome or an underlying cause isn’t clear, said study lead author Dr. W. Ian Lipkin.

But they could be tied to disease severity, said Lipkin. He is director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects about 1 million Americans – women more often than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with the syndrome typically complain of extreme fatigue after exertion, muscle and joint pain, thinking difficulty and sleep problems. But only about 20 percent of people who have the syndrome actually know it, because it’s difficult to diagnose, the CDC notes.

Scientists have begun to look to the microbiome for answers to a host of medical mysteries.

Your microbiome is the community of bacteria living on and in your body. “In this case, we are describing the bacteria in your intestines,” said Lipkin.

“These bacteria influence how we feel, how our immune systems respond to our environment and our resistance to disease,” he added.

To explore a potential association between chronic fatigue syndrome and an imbalance in the gut environment, researchers recruited 50 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 50 healthy peers from four U.S. cities. Most were women, average age 51.

Fecal samples from all participants were genetically broken down to identify the types and quantity of bacteria present. Blood samples were also analyzed.

What the investigation found is that people with chronic fatigue syndrome “have different bacteria in their intestines than healthier people,” Lipkin said.

Specifically, the research team observed that chronic fatigue patients – but not the healthy participants – had high quantities of several intestinal bacteria species.

Also, among people with chronic fatigue syndrome, investigators found that bacterial composition appeared to shift depending on disease severity.

Both associations held up regardless of whether or not a person with chronic fatigue syndrome also had irritable bowel syndrome. The two often go hand-in-hand.

“This study is an early but important step toward determining the composition of a healthy microbiome,” said Lipkin. Ultimately, the findings may aid diagnoses and point to new treatments targeting subtypes of chronic fatigue, he and his colleagues suggested.

“As the work continues,” Lipkin added, “we anticipate that physicians will be able to make specific recommendations that influence the composition of our microbiomes, and reduce some symptoms of [chronic fatigue syndrome].”

Currently, there are no approved treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome in the United States.

However, one doctor cautioned that much more research is needed first.

There is unlikely to be a single explanation or “silver bullet” for the syndrome, said Dr. Jim Pagel. He is an associate clinical professor with the University of Colorado Medical School System.

Pagel noted that microbiome abnormalities might reflect just one “secondary” factor related to, but not causing, chronic fatigue syndrome. Numerous factors could be involved.

The bottom-line: “We have only a very limited understanding as to what makes up an appropriate diet and the associations of gastrointestinal flora with illness,” said Pagel. “There is far more we don’t know than what we do know.”

The findings were published online April 26 in the journal Microbiome.

By Alan Mozes     HealthDay Reporter    THURSDAY,  April 27, 2017    HealthDay News
Sources: W. Ian Lipkin, M.D., professor, epidemiology, and director, Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York City; Jim Pagel, M.D., associate clinical professor, University of Colorado Medical School System, and director, Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado, Pueblo, Colo.; April 26, 2017, Microbiome, online
source: www.webmd.com


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Targeting Gut Bacteria May Be The Key To Preventing Alzheimer’s

Diet could be a powerful mode of prevention.

A new study suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

Mounting research continues to show the links between the health of the gut and that of the brain. Now, a new study from Lund University in Sweden finds that unhealthy intestinal flora can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The report, published Feb. 8 in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different gut bacterial profile than those that do not have the disease.

The gut microbiome is highly responsive to dietary and lifestyle factors. This suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

“Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it,” study author Dr. Frida Fak Hållenius, associate professor at the university’s Food for Health Science Centre, told The Huffington Post. “Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”

In the new study, Hållenius and her colleagues revealed a direct causal association between gut bacteria and signs of Alzheimer’s in mice. When a group of bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of rodents with Alzheimer’s, they developed brain plaques indicative of Alzheimer’s. When the bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of the healthy rodents, however, they developed significantly fewer brain plaques.

Beta-amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain are a central marker of the disease. These sticky protein clumps accumulate between the brain’s neurons, disrupting signals and contributing to the gradual killing off of nerve cells.

“We don’t yet know how bacteria can affect brain pathology, we are currently investigating this,” Hållenius said. “We think that bacteria may affect regulatory T-cells in the gut, which can control inflammatory processes both locally in the gut and systemically ― including the brain.”

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.

The gut microbiome is intimately connected with the immune system, since many of the body’s immune cells are found in this area of the stomach, Hållenius added.

Anything that happens in the digestive tract can affect the immune system, she explained. “By changing the gut microbiota composition, you affect the immune system of the host to a large extent.”

The findings suggest that Alzheimer’s may be more more preventable than health experts previously thought. The composition of bacteria in the gut is determined by a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors. Diet, exercise, stress and toxin exposure all play a huge role in the gut’s bacterial makeup.

Now, the researchers can begin investigating ways to prevent the disease and delay its onset by targeting gut bacteria early on. And in the meantime, anyone can adopt a plant-based, whole foods diet and probiotic supplementation as a way to improve the health of their microbiome.

“The diet shapes the microbial community in the gut to a large extent, so dietary strategies will be important in prevention of Alzheimer’s,” Hållenius said. “We are currently working on food design that will modulate the gut microbiota towards a healthier state.”

The study is far from the first to show a connection between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s. In a 2014 paper published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, researchers listed 10 different ways that the microbiome may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including fungal and bacterial infections in the intestinal tract and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

“The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated,” that study’s authors wrote.

By Carolyn Gregoire      Feb 21, 2017