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How Gut Bacteria Controls Your Brain

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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.

https://www.railyardapothecary.com/store/p248/The_Gut_Brain_Connection%3A_Learning_to_Trust_My_Gut.html

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?

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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.

https://www.parentingspecialneeds.org/article/gut-brain-connection-special-needs/

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.

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Fitness/ Diet

My 26.21 Mile Accomplishment

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I never expected to run a complete marathon. Running a marathon may sound like something only elite athletes or future Olympians would do. It just didn’t seem plausible for me to run for hours straight, especially since I grew up like anyone else. I was involved in cross country in high school, went to class, work, and lived my daily routine normally.  But this year on March 18, 2018, I ran my first ever marathon. After I graduated college, I wanted to take on a new challenge and decided to get back into running. I thought to myself that I might as well “go-big or go-home.” Next thing I knew, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon.

While I did run cross-country in my senior year of high school in 2011, long-distance running was still new to me. Cross-country races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Not only that, but I didn’t keep up with running after high school since I got into weightlifting. As some may know, weightlifting builds muscle, which contradicts the effects that long distance cardio has to break down muscle and build endurance.

Photo by Go to Ann Kathrin Bopp on Unsplash

Signing Up- May 12, 2017

The first thing I did to prepare for the marathon was to give myself ample time between when I signed up for the marathon and when it actually took place. I signed up for the LA Marathon on May 12, 2017. That gave me a little over 10 months to prepare. Yes, I could have just started my training early and signed up later on, but by signing up early, there was an added motivation because actually doing the marathon became “real”. It also helped that once you sign up and pay for the LA Marathon, there are no refunds, which means there was no backing out now!

When I signed up for the LA Marathon, I signed up for two other races as well: The Santa Monica Classic 10k (6.2 miles) on September 10th, 2017 and the Pasadena Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on January 21, 2018. This three-race series was known as the “Conqur La Challenge” that gave me a bundle deal and helped me pace my progress throughout my training cycle.

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

The First Milestone- September 10, 2017

Now, I was almost ready for a 6.1-mile race by September.  As time passed, these smaller run checkpoints ensured that my mileage was going up. I felt stronger and better with each practice run I made and noticed my time was improving, a critical factor when training for a race this long.

Besides my mileage going up over time, my running frequency also went up over time. I was still going to the gym and lifting weights in addition to my running as part of an experiment I was doing. I wanted to see if I could maintain my strength and minimize muscle loss while still building running endurance. Most people focus on bodybuilding or stamina, but balancing both at the same time was a challenge I wanted to overcome.

Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

The Second Milestone- January 21, 2018

Next came the half-marathon in January. I prepared for this by signing up with one of my closest friends. While we may not have trained together very often, we did go to all three races together. Knowing I was going through this marathon experience with a friend helped out a lot. I had someone to talk about training with and had support during the actual races. This was another great source of motivation and was very important to my training.

As the official marathon date approached closer and closer, I cut back the number of times I went to the gym to lift weights and increased the number of times I ran. Before beginning my marathon training, I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and only running once a week. I slowly changed that to going to the gym 3-4 times a week and running two to three times a week.

Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

Marathon Day- March 18, 2018

As the marathon approached, I, unfortunately, had a minor setback. I hurt my knee after running some very steep hills a few weeks before the marathon. I realized I had neglected incline training but overcorrected by running too steep of an incline. While it was a tough decision, I decided to take some time off before the marathon to let my knee heal. Looking back, this was the right decision because I had already prepared a substantial amount up to this point. One extra week of running was not going to make a difference, but if I had chosen not to take some time off, I could have hurt my knee worse.

When the big day finally approached my knee had gotten better, but I was still a bit nervous about the grueling run I was about to partake in. However, I just remembered to have fun with it and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!

“I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!”

Training for the LA Marathon and then actually running it were such great experiences and I hope to run another marathon sometime again in the future. I will take what worked from training for this marathon as well as what I learned (such as preventing injuries) to have a better experience next time around. Finishing a marathon helped me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and it is a challenge I would want to conquer again. I hope that by sharing my experience in how I prepared for my first marathon, others can take something away or be inspired to run their first marathon soon.

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Fitness/ Diet

The Truth About These Supposedly “Healthy” Foods

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When we go to a supermarket or a food junction, it is almost impossible to resist grabbing a snack. On a surface level, some common snacks and drinks seem to boast a multitude of health benefits or do not seem inherently unhealthy. However, upon closer analysis, there is more to these foods than meets the eye.

Here is a reference for different dietetic intakes assuming your diet is the standard 2,000 calories per day:

Max Sugar Intake (g) Max Fat Intake (g)
Men 37.5 44-78
Women 25 44-78

Acai Bowls

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“It has fruit so that means it’s healthy, right?”

For a long time, acai has been proclaimed as a superfood and was deemed to be the secret to weight loss. However, researchers from the NIH have stated that “no independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai supplements alone promote rapid weight loss.”

While acai berries do have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, the ingredients in the acai bowl itself have an extremely high sugar content, ranging from 21-62 grams of sugar. The acai fruit itself is healthy; however, the toppings that contribute to this sugar spike include granola, chocolate chip, and honey.

Most of the acai at health food shops put added sugar into the acai mixture. Despite these drawbacks, it is still possible to enjoy the bowl but a few changes are necessary.

Health Tip: Try to omit those sugary toppings, and as a substitute, add grapes, apples or pears to make the bowl sweeter. Also, if you can find unsweetened acai, you can blend it with a banana to retain that sweet taste. If you are craving a more savory taste, you can mix the acai with greek yogurt or peanut butter, which contain healthy fats.

Boba Milk Tea

Photo by Rosalind Chang on Unsplash

Boba is a common drink that is loved amongst millennials, and at first glance, the drink may not be perceived as unhealthy. However, boba is “boiled and saturated with sugar” and each ball has about 5-14 calories, meaning that “100 extra calories are added to an already calorically dense drink.”

Nutrition wise, boba does not contain any minerals or vitamins, so it is essentially empty calories. The sugar levels are extremely high, as one cup of boba can amount to 50 grams of sugar. Toppings such as jelly and pudding also contribute to high fat and sugar content.

Health Tip: Everyday boba consumption is not recommended; however, you can adjust the sweetness by adding less syrup, dilute the drink with more ice, and ask for less boba.

Protein Bars

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rstinnett/7703353570

The act of digging into a chocolate, gooey protein can seem quite scrumptious. Don’t be fooled though; these protein bars are packed with additives such as high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats. The bar Nutrimo contains 9.99 grams of saturated fat, which is equivalent to the amount of saturated fats in a big mac. Power Bar has around 27 grams of sugar as does two snack packs of Oreos.

Health Tip: A better alternative to these bars are oatmeal or flax seed bars that have natural sugars such as fruit sugar or honey.

Overall, the key is to consume these drinks and snacks in moderation and make adjustments that make the food just as delectable as before, while keeping it healthy.

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Lifestyle

5 Fear-Based Reasons Why People Might Choose Natural Remedies Over Seeking Professional Help

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It’s not uncommon to have a relative that always insists on using their remedy to cure your illness instead of seeing a doctor. The National Center for Health Statistics studies reveals that nearly 4 out of 10 adults have implemented complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat their illness. Natural remedies fall within the CAM category of alternative medicine because they are not backed up properly by scientific studies.

 

https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/cam-use-us-adults-children

 

The health benefits behind natural remedies have been passed on from previous generations for the betterment of your family, though evidence suggests that they may cause more harm than good because there is no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) research and approval. Despite genuine intentions, home remedies should not be a substitute for medical treatments set by professionals within the regulated standards of the healthcare industry.

It is important to note that although some remedies might work to cure upset stomachs or colds, always remember that it is only temporary and is not a permanent solution. If scientific research and testing have proven medicine to cure its targeted illness, then why do people continue sharing remedies? Are your relatives unknowingly partaking in the placebo effect and genuinely believe in their remedies healing ability?

Generally, people use remedies instead of seeking medical treatment because they prefer to engage in the behavior that is least threatening to them.

Here are five fear-based reasons why a relative might be prolonging a visit with a doctor and substituting professional medical treatments with natural remedies:

  1. Lack of Trust – There exists no stable relationship between the patient and doctor.
  2. Fear of Bad News – Individuals fear to discover that they have developed a terminal disease and rather not know.
  3. Appearing Weak – When a person’s resilience is put to the test, some react by ignoring their symptoms because their strength is being compromised.
  4. Lifestyle Changes – People rather stick to their traditions and daily routines. A doctor’s visit can alter their way of living due to recommendations of taking a new medication and lifestyle changes.
  5. Embarrassment – Individuals don’t feel comfortable being physically examined and would rather avoid any potential awkwardness that can arise during a visit to their physician.

Although it is important to respect an individual’s beliefs and traditions, society should make an effort to educate them on proper methods to improve their health. A productive way to help a relative is by discussing their fears and showing them the benefits of seeking medical treatment. Once that person’s particular motive has been determined, you can let them know that using remedies and delaying a visit to the doctor can worsen their conditions over time.

Try to understand their reasons seriously and support them in a positive manner that allows them to get past their mental barrier. Everyone copes with health challenges differently, and it is important to help a relative overcome their problems. It is also important to have the doctor maintain open communication lines with the patient. This means that the doctor is responsible for explaining why a certain medication is being used in the treatment, why a specific dosage of that medication is being administered, and the benefits that they will experience on their health journey.

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