gut-brain

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How to Optimize the Benefits of Ketosis

With many struggling to lose weight, people are searching to find ways to do it safely and easily. One diet that has re-emerged as a popular choice is the keto (ketogenic) diet.

Those who follow the keto diet eat foods containing low amounts of carbs, high quantities of fats and medium amounts of protein.

Replacing those carbs with fats triggers a metabolic change in your body called ketosis. Ketosis burns fats more efficiently and lowers your insulin and blood sugar levels.

The origins of the keto diet date back nearly a century ago as a solution to treat epilepsy safely when drugs weren’t effective. Over the past 25 years, this diet-based alternative has gained popularity as seizure rates have fallen 50 percent or more among approximately more than half of adults, according to recent reports.

The health of the human gut may play an important part in supporting the anti-seizure benefits people receive from following the keto diet too, according to a study appearing in Cell.

Boo to antibiotics!

Researchers at UCLA discovered the connection between gut health and the keto diet when they compared the health of normal mice to those raised in a germ-free environment and others treated with antibiotics, a well-known, drug-based enemy that depletes gut bacteria.

In initial tests, the microbiomes of healthy mice with normal microbiomes changed in just four days and they experienced far fewer seizures while eating a keto diet.

On the other hand, mice with depleted or non-existent microbiomes didn’t receive the same protective benefits from seizures when they were fed a keto diet. Why? Germ-free mice were missing two specific species of gut bacteria (Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides).

“We found we could restore seizure protection if we gave these particular types of bacteria together,” said researcher Christine Olson, according to a press release. “This suggests that these different bacteria perform a unique function when they are together.”

The gut-brain connection

UCLA researchers also learned how those species of gut bacteria, elevated by the keto diet, were also responsible for changing the level of biochemicals in the gut and bloodstream that affect neurotransmitters in the brain’s hippocampus.

(In the human brain, the hippocampus has many functions, including processing memory and regulating the “fight or flight” response.)

That pair of gut bacteria works together to increase levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter that quiets neurons), a connection that shows how the gut-brain connection may affect other conditions like epilepsy.

It’s also important to reiterate that multiple strains of bacteria working together made all the difference in protecting mice from seizures. Treating mice with just one strain of bacteria offered no protection at all.

However, probiotics, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic for kids, contain multiple strains of bacteria that provide a wide range of health benefits for your unique and diverse microbiome.

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.

 

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