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.
The Health Benefits of Live Cultures in Yogurt
Yogurt is gaining prominence as a new superfood and for a good reason. It is known to help prevent osteoporosis, aid digestion, and relieves irritable bowel syndrome. What is special about yogurt is the various live cultures that keep the intestines healthy, thus contributing to gastrointestinal health. Here is a summary of the importance of different types of bacteria present in yogurt:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus: This is a nonpathogenic intestinal microflora that is known to bind to the brush border tissue found in our intestines. These brush border tissues are the primary sites of nutrient absorption. The binding of Lactobacilli to brush border tissue can prevent pathogens from accessing the gastrointestinal mucosa, which can regulate the process of digestion.
- S. Thermophilus: This bacteria is utilized during the fermentation of yogurt. Since it can break down sugar into lactic acid, S. Thermophilus is a viable option for those who are lactose intolerant to improve digestion. In addition, this bacteria can reduce acute diarrhea. A study noted that children exposed to the probiotic had 50% of reduced symptoms as compared to the control group.
- L acidophilus: This particular bacteria is produced naturally in the stomach and intestines. Some of the health benefits include improved heart health, increasing iron levels in the blood, and reducing cholesterol levels.
- Bifidus: This bacteria is part of the natural microflora within the digestive system. Bifidus can assist with regulating the digestive system, promoting weight loss, and improving the immune system.
In short, eating yogurt into your diet can be beneficial for your digestion and overall health. Let us know in the comments if you eat yogurt on a daily basis and have seen tangible benefits.
CBD and THC Can Help Treat Insomnia
Many adults in the US are undergoing sleep problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30-40 percent of adults are likely to experience insomnia in their future. Recent research is showing that cannabis can help alleviate symptoms of insomnia. The co-administration of CBD and THC has been found to induce sleep. It is important to note that CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, meaning you do not feel the “high.” THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that can induce the feeling of being “high.”
A study published in 2004 stated that the administration of THC increased the duration of slow-wave sleep in participants of the study. Slow-wave sleep is defined as the deepest part of your sleep of non REM sleep. These participants were administered 5 or 15 mg of CBD with the same doses of THC. When consuming higher levels of THC, however, research shows that this reduces REM sleep. REM sleep is when dreams are most prevalent. Therefore, higher strains of THC can be beneficial for those with PTSD because less REM sleep could contribute to fewer nightmares. Since REM sleep is decreased, the amount of time spent in deep sleep increases.
It is also important to note the different strains of marijuana that can contribute to treating your insomnia. The indica strain has soothing and relaxing properties, while the sativa strain increases feelings of excitement and energy. There is a hybrid version of these two strains as well. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how using CBD and THC can improve your sleep.
Medical Cannabis and Autism
Autism is exceptionally prevalent worldwide, especially among children. Autistic children experienced behavioral outbreaks, communication blocks, and stress. Cannabis-based treatments are rapidly emerging as a safer, well-tolerated option to combat some of the autistic symptoms. In previous studies, researchers had administered Dronabinol, which is a THC based drug. They found reductions in hyperactivity, irritability, and lethargy. Another study demonstrated that the administration of Dronabinol reduced self-destructive behavior in a group of 10 adolescents.
The mechanism of cannabis in affecting autistic patients is not understood entirely. However, research hypothesizes that GABA and glutamate action can limit the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system. Other research studies have suggested that cannabis can enhance the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These are hormones that can contribute to increased processing of social information.
A recent study aims to analyze the efficacy and safety of cannabis-based treatments on young autistic patients. The results of the study demonstrated that compliance of the treatment is high, with 85% of participants completing the treatment. The side effects of the treatments included restlessness, which was present in 6.6% of the patients. These side effects were easy to manage, which potentially contributes to the high efficacy of the treatment. About 80% of participants reported significant or moderate improvement in their symptoms.
While cannabis seems to impact autistic behavioral systems positively, there is more research needed on the subject. Let us know in the comments if cannabis has alleviated autistic symptoms in anyone you know!
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