The bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (gut) is often referred to as your second brain, and for a good reason. Inside your stomach is a very complex, multi-organism microbiome that consists of not only your cells but also various bacteria that help you digest your food. The most prominent bacteria are Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria, but there are many more as well. The effects of these bacteria are currently in research, but recent scientific studies have discovered that these bacteria are not only beneficial but a necessity for survival.
The bacteria in your gut can make your basic life functions easier and overall happier in general. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience conducted an experiment where they studied germ-free mice (in the gut) compared to mice containing bacteria. These germ-free mice displayed an exaggerated response to restraint stress and anxiety-related behaviors, which affected the overall well-being of the rat.
What makes it much more interesting is that gene expression of a key protein regulating neuronal plasticity and cognition was observed to have decreased, whereas a control group of normal mice with gut bacteria showed the necessity of such bacteria for survival. When the scientists re-introduced the bacteria in the gut, these effects were somewhat able to be reversed and symptoms, including neuronal cognition, were mediated; however, not all the mice with reintroduced gut bacteria were seen to recover from the symptoms and continued symptoms were especially prominent for mice that were not in early childhood/adolescence.
Scientists then applied this newly found information and analyzed human fecal matter. They began to see the effects of various dietary choices and how it affects your brain. The current focus is on probiotics, which is a $20 billion industry in today’s market, and it is promoted widely as healthy. But why?
The testing of gastrointestinal tract bacteria and probiotics is relatively early in its studies, but there are specific strains that have been proven to impact your gut microbiome positively. Additional studies of groups given probiotics against groups given a placebo in hospitals measured for mood and cognition. Using the total Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the researchers saw that the probiotics group had a higher percentage decrease versus the placebo group. These tests were based on the mood, something that is not quantifiable. However, suggested evidence tells us that probiotics help with increased mood and further, larger clinical trials are being conducted to find more evidence.
Manipulation of the microbiome in your gut is utilized for many applications, including chronic diseases and illnesses. Hepatic encephalopathy, a symptom of a chronically diseased liver, causes patients to have complications with cognitive function and patients treated by gastrointestinal tract bacteria manipulation. Antibiotics are given to help the patients because their diseased livers cannot process the gut bacteria metabolites. Reducing the bacteria that cause these metabolites to mediate the problem results in the disappearance of these metabolites, thus improving cognitive function. The bacteria microbiome here have a direct effect of the patients’ function, displaying how your gut bacteria controls your brain.
Evidence in mice suggests that gastrointestinal tract microbiome may be not only necessary for yourself right now but also crucial for early brain development. Right after birth, the newborn is introduced to many different microorganisms, and this early microbiome is essential for the development of the early brain. A 2010 study, Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior, tested mice with different microbiome organisms to see the effects. Germ-free (GF) mice were tested versus normal mice in anxiety and exploratory activity.
Mice were tested to see if the absence of gut bacteria would affect the maturation of the brain of the mice. Key proteins were found missing from the GF mice, and later those mice experienced anxiety behaviors. Interestingly, proteins for the development of synapses were not expressed as much, which seems to lead to a long-term effect on the developing mice in motor control and anxiety. Results such as “elevated Noradrenaline (NA), Dopamine (DA), and 5-HT Turnover in the Striatum” appeared to cause the anxiety-like behaviors. In other words, mice without a bacterial microbiome saw anxiety-like behaviors due to changes in the neuronal chemistry inside the brain. This suggests that in humans early childhood, gut microbiome is important for the development of the synapses of the brain and controls the brain through gene expression leading to protein expression.
Your health, mood, and well-being may be in fact due to the microbiome that lays inside your gastrointestinal tract. Studies observed that mice gut bacteria cause anxiety-like symptoms. Eating probiotics have shown to be beneficial, but further research is still necessary. For now, understand the correlation between what you eat affects how you feel, and that your stomach bacteria plays a significant role in your health.
5 Ways to Relieve Stress During a Pandemic
Living in uncertain times can feel a bit stressful, especially when facing a pandemic. Most of us have never experienced living through a pandemic as well as having to adapt swiftly to our temporary reality. Public places that were once accessible are now closed due to the coronavirus epidemic. Staying at home can create anxiety, unable to go to the gym to get those endorphins up, or visiting friends and family. Incorporating a sense of normalcy into your daily activities is essential to relieve stress and lower anxiety levels. There are still some ways you can increase your endorphin levels and stay productive in the comfort of your own home including:
There is research that shows meditation can improve symptoms of stress-related conditions. The benefits of meditation also include the ability to regulate everyday emotions and boost the immune system. Creating a daily habit of meditation can help preserve these benefits and help develop a positive outlook on life. There are apps you can download to start your meditation journey and help guide you through your meditation.
Gyms may be temporarily closed, but you can still fit in a good workout without any gym equipment. Maintaining your workout routine is essential for supporting healthy immune function and preventing weight gain. To add resistance to your workout, you can find a bag or backpack and fill it with cans or any other items to use the bag as a weight. From squats to lunges or burpees you can get your heart pumping and relieve stress. You can also access streaming services online to find at-home workouts and keep you motivated like in the video down below.
Grab a Book
Take a break from binge-watching the latest series on your streaming devices and grab a book to keep your brain engaged. Reading just 30 minutes a day can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and psychological distress. Reading fiction can boost your imagination, and reading self-help books can help you navigate your daily lives. Staying mentally proactive is just as important as staying physically active.
Staying indoors can start to feel a bit suffocating, unable to go to the mall to walk around or even to restaurants on a Saturday night. The CDC recommends the population to practice social distancing to keep a distance of six feet from others outside your home. You can still go outside and grab some fresh air to supply your daily dose of vitamin D. On your next lunch break, take a minute to get out and help restore your focus.
Studies have shown that having social support is vital to maintain physical and mental health. Social support also builds resilience against stress. You may be unable to visit your friend’s home, but with modern technology, it’s possible to video chat, call, and text loved ones.
The most important thing you can do to relieve the anxieties of the outside world is to prioritize your physical and mental health. Implement these daily activities to help manage your stress levels and stay active.
Five Household Products to Disinfect your home from the coronavirus
Most people are staying indoors to stay protected from contracting the infectious disease known as COVID-19. They are making sure to practice good hygiene by washing their hands for approximately twenty seconds with warm water and soap and resist touching their faces outside of home recommended by the CDC.
But what about when we get home? Are the typical everyday cleaning products effective enough to remove the coronavirus? There are available products you can find at local stores to disinfect every room in your home correctly. The everyday household items to add to your list include:
One household item that is effective against the virus and bacteria is bleach. The CDC recommends a diluted bleach solution 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Be sure to use bleach as directed on the bottle, and never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Try to avoid using bleach frequently to clean your faucets, stainless steel products, and countertops as it can corrode metal over time. After disinfecting surfaces, make sure to rinse with water to prevent discoloration.
For hard surfaces, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70% alcohol are useful against the Coronavirus. Apply the alcohol solution, but make sure not to dilute it. Once applied, let it sit on the surface for approximately 30 seconds to disinfect the surfaces. Take caution when using alcohol. It is typically safe for all surfaces but can cause discoloration to some plastics.
According to the CDC, 3% hydrogen peroxide is effective within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Pour the hydrogen peroxide in an undiluted spray bottle and spray it on the surface. Then let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute. Hydrogen peroxide like bleach can discolor fabrics if it happens to get on your clothes.
In surface wipes, antiseptics are the active ingredient that works on bacteria as well as coronaviruses. The wipes physically remove the germs when you swipe in one motion and after a layer of the antiseptic is left on the surface it works to kill bacteria. CDC recommends to wipe down everyday surfaces like keyboards, doorknobs, phones, etc.
Dealing with an unknown virus such as COVID-19 has left the world worried about our everyday lives. There is some reassurance knowing we can keep our homes safe to protect ourselves and loved ones with items that are accessible at local stores. For a list of more measures to take for prevention, check out the CDC website here.
The Rundown of the Impossible Burger
With the human population immensely increasing each decade, the concern of utilizing all of our resources and making the Earth uninhabitable has loomed over our heads. Fortunately, back in 2011, Impossible Foods Inc. seemingly achieved the impossible, creating a plant-based burger that mimics the color, smell, and flavor of the meat. By replacing meat with plant-based “meat,” Impossible Foods Inc. hopes to reduce the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the Earth to restore natural ecosystems. Food scientists at Impossible Foods Inc. discovered that heme is the ingredient that gives meat that “meaty” flavor that people crave. Heme, located in hemoglobin, plays a vital role in animals by allowing the bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout the body.
A common reason why many people switch to being vegetarian and vegan is to live a healthier lifestyle. However, are these plant-based “meats” really healthier compared to their meat counterparts? The answer is not really. One of the main ingredients in the Impossible Burger is coconut oil. Although it is perceived as a “healthy” fat, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association also advises against consuming coconut oil. Upon comparing the Impossible Burger to its other burger counterparts, we see the following:
- Impossible burger: 240 calories with 8g of saturated fat
- Beef burger: 280 calories with 9g of saturated fat
- Veggie burgers are not meant to mimic meat: 150-160 calories with 4g of saturated fat
The Impossible burger has fewer calories and grams of saturated fat than the beef burger; however, it contains more sodium than its meat and veggie burger counterparts. Even though the Impossible Burger may be better for the environment, they are not necessarily nutritionally healthier for consumers. The Impossible Burger is a good alternative for people who are vegetarian to reduce the consumption of animal-based foods. However, a traditional veggie burger is a healthier choice due to its low-fat content. Overall, Impossible Foods Inc. has created a viable alternative to classic burgers, striving to achieve what seems to be impossible.
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