There may be a problem with your gut-brain axis — the biological connection linking the gut, emotions and brain as one — when eating a diet rich in fats and sugars. These chemicals may cause shifts in mood and cognitive behaviors.
A recent study by Oregon State University (OSU) featured in the medical journal Neuroscience, linking gut health changes caused by following poor diets to serious problems related to cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt quickly to new and unexpected situations.
“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong,” says Dr. Kathy Magnusson of the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU in a press release. “Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing. Then one day that road is closed and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”
Researchers came to that conclusion after feeding mice either high-fat or high-sugar diets, then monitoring their physical and mental performances with an array of physical tests alongside their gut health.
Compared to mice that ate a normal diet, animals that were prescribed high-fat or high-sugar diets began to perform poorly on physical tests after only four weeks. The lack of cognitive flexibility stood out to researchers as one of the most obvious problems.
Young mice with physically stronger and healthier bodies were used in the study because they had more dynamic biological systems. In theory, the stronger mice could better resist the effects of a poor diet, Magnusson says.
On its own merit, the study provided more evidence of how Western diets — high in saturated fats, carbohydrates, refined sugars, processed foods and red meat — forced the gut to adapt by reducing the diversity of bacteria, leaving our bodies vulnerable to many diseases, most of which are preventable.
“We’ve known for a while, too much fat and sugar are not good for you,” Magnusson says. “This work suggests fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and it is one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you. It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”
One easy way to give your gut microbiota a healthy, natural boost and assist in preventing damage to your gut-brain axis is to take a probiotic with multiple species of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria can treat a variety of conditions related to your gut health.
Unlike many probiotics you’ll find at your health food shop or grocery store, EndoMune Advanced Probiotic contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria, plus the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide that feeds the good gut bacteria already living in your gut.