serotonin

Could poor gut health trigger Alzheimer’s?

Recently, we discussed how the brain health of Alzheimer’s patients may benefit by taking a probiotic blend of beneficial bacteria without explaining “the why.”

A recent study targeting the balance of the human gut microbiome may be at the heart of accelerating the development of Alzheimer’s, according to Scientific Reports.

Researchers discovered the link between poor gut health and Alzheimer’s while comparing the composition of gut microbiota taken from diseased and healthy mice.

Overall, at least two major kinds of gut bacteria (Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes) were found in much greater quantities in animals suffering from Alzheimer’s versus healthy mice.

The germ-free discovery

The link solidified when scientists studied the brain health of germ-free mice born without gut bacteria that received transplants of gut bacteria from animals with Alzheimer’s.

Before those transplants, germ-free mice had significantly smaller amounts of beta-amyloid plaque, protein fragments that build up between neurons in the brain. After the transplants, even those “clean” animals were vulnerable to the growth of brain-killing beta-amyloid plaque.

Typically, the healthy brain breaks down those fragments and sheds them. As beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles accumulate in the brain, however, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin to present themselves.

“Our study is unique as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Frida Fåk Hållenius, according to a press release. “The results mean that we can now begin researchers ways to prevent the disease and delay the onset.”

Take these steps to avoid Alzheimer’s disease

Although you can’t prevent Alzheimer’s disease at this juncture, there’s lots of things you do to reduce your risks just by taking better charge of your health.

The results of this study could drive attention away from antiretroviral drugs that merely treat symptoms to a wider scope of weapons related to preserving a balance of gut bacteria that could do more good, including probiotics.

Since as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin (the chemical that transmits messages from one side of your brain to another) is produced in your gut, it’s no surprise that scientists would target more therapies there.

All the more reason, you should include taking a multi-species probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 proven strains of bacteria, every day to that list of steps you take to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.

Boost Your Serotonin without Medication

Protecting your body’s gut-brain axis—the connection linking your brain, emotions and intestines—is very important to your good physical and emotional well-being.

Taking a multi-strain probiotic can serve as a vital step to enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Guarding that diversity and your gut-brain axis is critical for your body’s production of serotonin, a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter to send messages from one part of the brain to another. In fact, scientists estimate that 80-90 percent of the body’s serotonin may be produced in the gut.

Important research by Caltech scientists, published in the medical journal Cell, has linked the production of peripheral serotonin in the gut by enterochromaffin (EC) cells to specific bacteria.

Specific gut bacteria connected to serotonin production

First, researchers investigated whether gut bacteria affected serotonin by comparing its production in normal and germ-free mice. No surprise, EC cells from germ-free animals produced some 60 percent less serotonin versus normal mice.

When gut bacteria was taken from normal mice and transplanted into germ-free mice, serotonin levels of germ-free animals rebounded.

Then, scientists tested gut bacteria (single species and groups) to determine which species work with EC cells to produce serotonin. They identified some 20 species of spore-forming bacteria that boosted levels of serotonin in germ-free mice.

Also, normal mice treated with these species experienced improved gastrointestinal motility and alterations in the activation of blood platelets (they use serotonin to promote clotting too).

“EC cells are rich sources of serotonin in the gut. What we saw in this experiment is that they appear to depend on microbes to make serotonin, or at least a large portion of it,” said Jessica Yano, one of the study’s authors in a press release.

Previously, research has concluded some strains of bacteria were solely responsible for producing serotonin, but this study saw things differently. Instead, specific bacteria normally present in the gut interact with intestinal cells to generate serotonin, said Yano.

These interactions between gut bacteria and intestinal cells may not be limited to producing serotonin, said Dr. Elaine Hsiao, research assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and senior author of the study.

“We identified a group of bacteria that, aside from increasing serotonin, likely has other effects yet to be explored. Also, there are conditions where an excess of peripheral serotonin appears to be detrimental.”

More natural serotonin boosters

Boost your levels of serotonin without depression medication, here’s four steps that can help without taking a drug:

  1. Exposing your body to bright light every day, a treatment for seasonal affective disorder in the winter, may be a worthwhile alternative to treat depression year-round.
  2. Get your body moving with daily exercise.
  3. Modify your diet by cutting back on caffeine and foods made of simple carbs (white bread, white rice and sweets), and eating more protein and brightly colored veggies every day.
  4. A recent University of Michigan study cited probiotics as a way to reduce stress by reversing intestinal inflammation.
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