Researchers Confirm Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain

by Dr. Michael John | 01/12/2021 4:38 PM
Researchers Confirm Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain

Studies and clinical trials have confirmed that what’s good for your gut is linked to have a strong positive impact on your brain. Similarly, anything that disrupts the normal balance of the gut flora can lead to the development of mental conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to recent research [1]  by a team of Italian and Swiss researchers, certain proteins secreted by the gut bacteria have the ability to modify how the nervous and the immune system interacts. This may contribute to the formation of amyloid plaques in the neurons that are already established to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

The Research Details

Researchers studied 89 people with ages ranging from 65 to 85 years. More than half of the participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while the remaining ones have no mental or memory issues. The researchers checked their blood for active inflammatory markers and specific proteins produced by the gut flora. They also used modern imaging techniques to measure amyloid deposits.

The lead researcher explains that we have already shown the alteration of gut bacteria in people with Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those without this condition. Such people lack microbial diversity – with certain bacteria having an over-representation that others. The researchers claim that their results are undisputed.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The gut is often called “the second brain” because of its significant role in the regulation of overall cognitive function and emotional well-being. The brain and the gut are interlinked through chemical signals that regulate the immune system, autonomic nervous system, and endocrine system.

The primary example of this gut-brain axis is serotonin – a neurotransmitter chemical substance that is integral to mood, happiness, and joy. Although serotonin majorly affects the brain – studies have shown that it is mainly (more than 90%) produced in the gut. [2]

You can’t simply break this axis and treat these organs independently. For instance, stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma is often linked to poor appetite. The axis can be fortunately be used to treat and improve brain conditions. Studies have proven that small dietary and lifestyle modifications can greatly impact your memory and cognition. 

Simple Changes, Big Effects

What goes inside your stomach plays a major role in implementing better gut health. Simply changing your lifestyle and modifying your diet can bring about significant effects. These may include:

  • Get more proteins from fish and lean meat to provide essential amino acids
  • Eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, which provide the brain’s primary source of energy – the glucose
  • Support your immune system by eating healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. It helps reduce inflammation, acts as anti-oxidants, and shield your brain from oxidative damage.
  • Focus on increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut by eating fermented foods
  • Adequate intake of water and water-based beverages is equally important for your brain cells. It also helps reduce inflammation and boost recovery.

What This Means For You

Besides diet, there are multiple other strategies linked to better gut and brain health, such as exercise, light physical activity, de-stress practices, meditation, yoga, and getting fresh air. These strategies have all been shown to improve concentration, reduce stress, and improve quality sleep. According to a recent study published in Sleep Medicine, there is a strong connection between cognition, sleep-wake cycle, and composition of the flora in the gut. [3]

This works both ways – a healthy gut helps promote good sleep, while a sound sleep is important for the gastrointestinal tract’s optimal functioning. Therefore, you may have noticed that sleep disturbances can cause several gut issues.

The study’s researchers suggest establishing good habits around the basics such as dietary intake, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness for better gut and brain health.


                    The Gut-Brain Connection

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