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How Gut Health Affects Your Sleep, Your Brain

You’ve probably heard a lot in the news about sleep hygiene, the behaviors and practices that you can do to protect and enhance your slumber time, and why that’s so important for your health.

However, one of those benefits – a healthier brain – can be at risk if you aren’t sleeping well, and changes in your gut may be the tell-tale sign, according to a study appearing in Sleep Medicine.

Over the course of the study, researchers monitored the sleep habits and gut health of 37 healthy patients (ages 50-85) who provided fecal samples and completed assessments for sleep, mental acuity, diet and overall health.

The interesting findings here were positive connections with two specific phylum of bacteria in the gut: Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae.

Higher amounts of both bacteria were associated to positive results – better sleep quality and good cognitive flexibility (your brain’s ability to switch between two different concepts or consider many concepts at the same time).

It certainly makes sense that sleep and our brains can be affected by these disruptions, given the growing amount of research that has shown how our gut bacteria follow a 24-hour circadian, wake/sleep schedule.

This inter-dependence between the gut and your circadian rhythms could also make your body more vulnerable to changes that promote obesity. Not to mention, we’ve also discussed how your circadian rhythms can get disrupted more easily due to jet lag, particularly when you travel long distances.

A growing number of experts believe gut health is linked to healthy sleep. “Scientists investigating the relationship between sleep and the microbiome are finding that the microbial ecosystem may affect sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a number of different ways: shifting circadian rhythms, altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, according to The Guardian.

As research continues on the gut-sleep connection, Dr. Breus suggests taking a probiotic along with a prebiotic in the meantime to feed your gut.

Separate from ensuring you follow good sleep hygiene and eat the right foods, keeping your gut and brain in alignment is as simple as taking a high-quality probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, that contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a prebiotic that feeds the microbes in your gut and may help you sleep better too.

Smarter Babies, Better Gut Health

For the longest time, we’ve discussed the connection between the brain and gut, better known as the gut-brain axis, and how it affects an array of human health variables from emotions to protecting your baby’s brain.

That connection may also be responsible for higher levels of cognitive development in young babies, depending on the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to research featured recently in Biological Psychiatry.

Smelly diapers

To assess the relationship between the gut and brain development, researchers at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine studied fecal samples from 1-year-old babies. Those samples were analyzed then separated into one of three microbial communities.

A year later, that same group of infants was given a series of cognitive tests that measured their language, perception and motor skills.

Overall, babies with higher concentrations of the Bacteroides bacterial genus did the best on cognitive tests. Interestingly, babies with more diverse gut microbiomes didn’t perform as well, a big surprise to UNC scientists.

“We had originally predicted that children with highly diverse microbiomes would perform better – since other studies have shown that low diversity in infancy is associated with negative health outcomes, including type 1 diabetes and asthma,” says Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer, a member of UNC’s Department of Psychiatry, according to a press release.

“Our work suggests that an ‘optimal’ microbiome for cognitive and psychiatric outcomes may be different than an ‘optimal’ microbiome for other outcomes.”

Gut-brain communication

Another interesting aspect of this study is the realization that the guts and the developing brains of babies may be communicating in very unique ways we’re just learning about every day, Dr. Knickmeyer says.

“That’s something that we are working on now, so we’re looking at some signaling pathways that might be involved. Another possibility is that the bacterial community is acting as a proxy for some other process that influences brain development – for example, variation in certain dietary nutrients.”

Another huge takeaway from this study in measuring the microbiomes of infants: Adult-like gut microbiome communities emerging at such an early age, implying that the ideal age in which to intervene would happen before age 1, says UNC grad student Alexander Carlson.

“Big picture: these results suggest you may be able to guide the development of the microbiome to optimize cognitive development or reduce the risk for disorders like autism which can include problems with cognition and language,” says Dr. Knickmeyer.

Although researchers were hesitant to speculate how probiotics may play a role, a severe imbalance of gut bacteria — specifically Lactobacillus reuteri — may be a trigger for autism, based on a recent study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine.

These deficits, along with the exploding growth of babies being delivered via Cesarean section in America, puts the health of our most vulnerable at risk from the very beginning of their lives.

A targeted, non-drug solution like a probiotic, like EndoMune Junior Probiotic, may be a safe way to promote better gut health and smarter brains.

 

Your Gut Health Connection to Parkinson’s

Now that modern science has finally embraced the gut-brain axis, it was only a matter of time before researchers began to find other pathways that connect the two.

Recent studies have linked both to Parkinson’s disease, one of the most common neurological brain disorders Americans face. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder related to the brain’s shrinking production of dopamine, which leads to problems with tremors, stiffness and balance.

Interestingly, your gut health connection to Parkinson’s disease may be tied to some common problems, like constipation and imbalances in gut bacteria.

Does Parkinson’s start in the gut?

One study, appearing in Neurology, examined the health of patients receiving resection surgery or a vagotomy, a procedure that removes the main portion or branches of the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the human body extending from the neck to the abdomen, to treat ulcers.

Researchers discovered the gut health connection to Parkinson’s when comparing two types of vagotomy surgeries that fully or selectively (partially) resected the vagus nerve.

Over the scope of the 40-year study, three times as many patients who had a selective vagotomy eventually developed Parkinson’s versus a full resection. Plus, patients who had a full resection were 40 percent less likely to experience Parkinson’s.

The “bread crumbs” left behind by a partial resection led researchers to conclude that Parkinson’s origins may start in the gut, says study author Dr. Bojing Liu, MSc, of the Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm, Sweden, according to a press release.

In fact, gut health problems like constipation that manifest decades sooner may be a sign that Parkinson’s could emerge later on in a patient’s life, says Dr. Liu.

Can a gut bacteria imbalance lead to Parkinson’s?

A lot closer to home, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) may have found another telltale sign of Parkinson’s disease via the composition of bacteria that inhabit the human gut.

Scientists discovered the connection while comparing the health of some 200 patients from three distinct regions of America (Northwest, Northeast and Southeast) with Parkinson’s to 130 healthy controls, according to the study appearing in Movement Disorders.

Unfortunately, health experts couldn’t figure out what came first:

  • Are changes in a patient’s gut bacteria balance a red flag that Parkinson’s is a possibility?
  • Does this disease play an active part in the disruption of gut health?
  • Could a Parkinson’s drug be causing problems?

One clue that may determine which way this gut bacteria imbalance goes is the method in which the microbiome helps the body get rid of environmental pollutants not typically found in the human body.

The balance of bacteria tasked with eliminating these chemicals was different in Parkinson’s patients, a critical finding since exposure to herbicides and pesticides in farm settings increases one’s risk of this debilitating disease.

These discoveries may lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, says Dr. Haydeh Payami, a professor in the Department of Neurology at the UAB School of Medicine, according to UAB News.

Therapies that regulate the imbalance in the microbiome may prove to be helpful in treating or preventing the disease before it affects neurologic function.”

Could taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic be a possible solution?

While scientists were quick to discourage any quick fixes, taking a probiotic does boost the body’s natural immunities and is a healthy and effective way to treat constipation without a drug.

Probiotics – Helping You Think Happy Thoughts?

A recent study analyzing the effect of gut bacteria and probiotics on brain activity may have positive implications for individuals.  Although still in the most preliminary stages of analysis and evaluation, scientists have discerned a link between the presence of probiotics in the diet and muted mental reactions to outside negative stress or stimuli.

Read the full article for details on how the study was conducted and when these hypotheses may gain enough support to become proven facts.

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