A gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices in the near future could pave the way for a large reduction in Alzheimer’s cases
Our gastrointestinal system is a highway for food, bacteria, minerals, toxins, and basically everything impacting our overall health. The GI tract is the home of more than 100 trillion microbial cells, all of which have a bearing on patient’s metabolism, immune system, physiology, and even mental health. Poor gut health can be linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), obesity, malnutrition, and other gastrointestinal conditions, making it an imperative to check patients for a gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices to amplify holistic care.
Gut health is important to our wellbeing, but many patients do not know how to manage it. As a doctor of chiropractic, you and your patients should be on the lookout for:
The average American eats an average of 1,996 pounds of food per year, and all of it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Different foods can both cause or prevent inflammation in the digestive tract. Approximately 75% of the world’s food comes from five animal and 12 plant species, so commit patients to trying new healthy foods and sticking to a gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices.
Food from animals such as meat or dairy can be a great source of protein and choline. But research suggests that too much animal-sourced protein could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
To support a healthy gut, promote:
- Plant phytonutrients and omega-3 fatty acids
- Probiotics (foods that have live bacteria) and prebiotics (food for the bacteria that already live in your system)
- Foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut (probiotics) and bananas, oatmeal, legumes (prebiotics)
- Foods high in fiber such as whole grain products, whole fruits and vegetables to help the GI tract along
Stress triggers the production of cortisol which can play a role in poor gut health. This stress hormone redirects blood flow to the brain and heart and temporarily neglects the digestive system.
In the past stress was used in survival situations, but today people experience the same negative effects on their gut health from everyday stressors. Emotional situations of all types — pandemic response, work stress, family upheaval — can cause a chemical response in the body and can present as stomach pain or other forms of unhealthy digestive responses.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation or mindfulness techniques can help manage the stress and reduce the effects of poor gut health along with a gut-friendly diet and lifestyle. Giving patients a “prescription” for finding time to spend in a natural setting — a hike, walking on the beach, sitting on the grass under a favorite tree — can calm patients and play a role in overall physical and mental health.
Antibiotics and the gut
Antibiotic therapy slows or stops the growth of healthy microbiomes in the body and encourages pathogens. It could also contribute to leaky gut syndrome (openings in the lining of the gut that allows toxins, partly digested food, or parasites to access the tissues of the body). Damage from antibiotic use is especially worrisome in the elderly population.
Probiotics can help rebalance the growth of gut microbiomes. Patients can take probiotics at the same time as a course of antibiotics, but because antibiotics kill healthy bacteria, it is best to take them several hours apart. Continue a mixture of different probiotics after antibiotic treatment to support the regrowth of bacteria in the intestines.
A gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices in regard to travel
Those who travel to other parts of the world may contract infections or introduce pathogens to the GI system, causing diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, or nausea. Poor sanitary conditions in other countries or during camping trips can start the spread of infection. Even jet lag or broken sleeping patterns can impact your gut health.
When patients travel, encourage them to keep regular bedtimes (when possible), practice safe hygiene, and be very aware of food and drink choices to continue their gut-friendly diet and lifestyle even while on vacation.
The gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices in new studies
A new study has revealed that patients with Alzheimer’s disease and gut disorders have several genes in common.
The study, published in the journal Communications Biology, analyzed multiple sets of genetic data from studies involving genetic information on an average of 400,000 individuals with gut disorders and AD. Scientists discovered significant genetic overlap between individuals with AD and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), gastritis-duodenitis (GD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and diverticulosis.
“These findings provide further evidence to support the concept of the ‘gut-brain’ axis, a two-way link between the brain’s cognitive and emotional centers, and the functioning of the intestines,” said the study’s supervisor, Simon Laws, director of the Centre for Precision Health at ECU, in a statement.
A gut-friendly diet and lifestyle choices in the near future could pave the way for a large reduction in Alzheimer’s cases and an even greater understanding of how the stomach/gut influences the brain, and vice versa.