Gut biome Alzheimer’s care is linking the health of the gut’s microbiome to avoiding or mitigating the brain-based disease
If you are age 65 or older, you have a 1 in 10 chance of developing Alzheimer’s dementia according to data provided by the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) as this disease currently afflicts roughly 5.8 million Americans in this age range. Furthermore, this number is expected to more than double by the year 2050, when it is projected to affect approximately 13.8 million, making gut biome Alzheimer’s care a growing study.
While many are aware that Alzheimer’s can impact memory, they fail to understand that this brain-based disease can also be deadly. The AA reports that Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., with one in three seniors dying with this mental health condition. Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are also twice as likely to die earlier than their healthier counterparts.
Part of what makes Alzheimer’s so problematic is that there is no known cure. There is also no one cause. Instead, it likely appears due to a variety of factors says the National Institute of Aging. Among them are brain changes due to age, genetics, environmental contributors, and even lifestyle. Research now also suggests that the gut may play a role as well.
The gut-brain connection in gut biome Alzheimer’s care
The body’s digestive tract is full of trillions of bacteria which aid in digestion and help to process nutrients contained within foods consumed. These bacteria also assist with the production of molecules designed to enable the body to fight off disease and better heal from injuries.
Collectively, bacteria in the gut are referred to as the microbiome and, based on their studies, the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Microbiome Sciences & Therapeutics notes that individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s appear to have a different microbiome. Specifically, they tend to have decreased levels of the group of bacteria known as Bifidobacterium, which generally live in the intestines and stomach and help the body fight off other types of bacteria that present more harm than good.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin state that, for individuals with Alzheimer’s, this type of microbiome “could be contributing to the progression of their disease, through the gut-brain axis.” Further, it may be possible to prevent or slow Alzheimer’s development with gut biome Alzheimer’s care.
Research published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility in early 2019 agrees, its authors hypothesizing that food-based therapy and supplements containing probiotics “may create new preventive and therapeutic options” for individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
Gut supplements for the brain?
Probiotics contain live bacteria that assist the gut with digesting and processing food. These same bacteria support a healthier immune system by assisting the body with the elimination of any “bad bacteria” that may exist. If the research is correct, probiotics aren’t just beneficial to the gut. They may also provide advantages for the brain and overall gut biome Alzheimer’s care.
A study published in Current Alzheimer Research explains that, when there is an imbalance of the organisms in the digestive tract, it can lead to leaky gut. The lining of the intestinal tract becomes more permeable, allowing bacteria and other toxins to “leak out” into the rest of the body. This can increase inflammation in the body and, more specifically, the nervous system, putting individuals at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers in this study attempted to discover whether it was possible to re-balance the microbiome, potentially creating a positive effect on this disease. Twenty subjects with Alzheimer’s were given probiotic supplements for a period of four weeks. After, it was noted that their levels of fecal zonulin decreased, suggesting that participants experienced a reduction in intestinal permeability. Their Faecalibacterium prausnitzii also increased, indicating the development of a healthier microbiome.
A 2016 study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience went one step further and looked at whether taking probiotics did, in fact, impact brain function. In this case, 60 Alzheimer’s patients were split in two groups: one which received a mixture of probiotics and the other receiving milk, acting as a control. After 12 weeks, the probiotic group had a “significant improvement” in their mini-mental state examination scores.
Improving gut (and brain) health with probiotics
The University of Washington shares that there are several foods that help improve the gut’s health. Among them are yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi. Garlic, onions, bananas, barley, oats, and apples are beneficial as well.
Supplementation is another option to consider, with the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reporting that probiotic use has quadrupled in recent years. However, the NCCIH also stresses that probiotics should not be used to postpone medical treatment. If cognitive decline exists, it is recommended that patients see their primary care physician to determine the cause and, if necessary, to develop an effective treatment plan utilizing gut biome Alzheimer’s care.