Mild Cognitive Impairment: Your Gut, Your Brain and Probiotics
Given our existing knowledge of the gut-brain axis — the connection that links your intestines, emotions, and brain — it was only time before modern science would examine how the microbiome and human mind work together in other ways.
Lately, a growing number of researchers are studying the effect of the microbiome on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a stage between the typical cognitive decline due to normal aging and dementia.
Nearly a fifth of people age 60 or older live with MCI, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Generally, the cognitive shifts associated with MCI are noticeable, but don’t limit a patient’s ability to do daily tasks.
Fortunately, MCI doesn’t always lead to Alzheimer’s and cognitive changes may improve in time and, occasionally, it can be misdiagnosed due to a drug side effect.
Based on what we’ve learned from a pair of recent studies, the health of the human gut may provide some clues about MCI and a possible treatment with the help of probiotics.
The Bad News: Gut Bacteria Imbalances
One of the first signs of trouble with gut health are imbalances in the microbiome. Based on a comparative analysis of fecal samples, a group of Chinese researchers spotted noticeable differences in gut bacteria between healthy patients and those with MCI in a study appearing in the Journal of Immunology Research.
On the plus side, MCI patients had significantly more of some strains from the Staphylococcus genus than the healthy controls. That may be problematic, given that another Staphylococcus strain has been linked to neurodegeneration, a deterioration of neuronal structures leading to cognitive problems and dementia.
On the minus side, those with MCI had reduced levels of Bacteroides strains, in line with previous research connecting them to Alzheimer’s. In fact, Chinese scientists recommended that these Bacteroides strains could be used as potential microbiome markers for MCI or Alzheimer’s.
The Good News: Probiotics
Fortunately, there may be a silver lining to all of this bad gut bacteria news with the help of a probiotic.
Japanese researchers compared the effect of a probiotic formulated with a proprietary strain of Bifidobacterium breve to a placebo on 80 healthy older MCI patients in a Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report.
(Bifidobacterium breve is one of the 10 strains of beneficial bacteria contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)
After both MCI groups took a probiotic or placebo for 16 weeks, researchers measured cognitive functions with a battery of standard tests.
No surprise, patients who took a probiotic achieved significantly higher scores in relation to immediate memory, visuospatial functioning (tasks like buttoning a shirt, assembling furniture or making a bed), and delayed memory.
These studies are merely the beginning of many as science looks to stem the tide of memory issues that surface with MCI and measure how well non-drug therapies like probiotics will perform in the real world.
One thing is certain: Taking a daily probiotic, especially a multi-species product like EndoMune supports your gut-brain axis, improves your mood, alleviates stress and helps you get the restful sleep your body needs naturally, safely, and without a drug.