Your Gut Could Influence Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

“Always trust your gut — It knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.”

In recent years, researchers have uncovered all kinds of gut-related information — strengthening the connection between the human brain and the digestive system. Known to influence anything for our mood — to our immune system, positive gut health is imperative to your overall well-being.

Now, researchers have found that the bacteria found in your intestine, may accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease. As you’d imagine, this data has opened new potential doors, as we may be able to more effectively prevent and treat this disease.

Study Finds — Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s

This new research has come from Lund University in Sweden, providing new clues and insights into this progressive disease. Currently, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, a number that’s expected to climb in the coming years.

Are we any closer to an Alzheimer’s cure?

Although we may not fully understand Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia, we continue to discover new pieces of the puzzle. Plenty of research has been conducted on the brain, but what about our gut? After all, gut feelings are associated with our ‘second brain.’ More commonly known as the gut-brain connection.

Since gut bacteria have such a significant impact on how we feel, researchers were interested in the interaction between immune function; intestinal mucosa, in relation to our diet; gut bacteria; and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Although we’re often told to ‘eat more probiotics’ and follow a balanced diet — your gut microbiome is also influenced by the bacteria you receive at birth, as well as your genes.

Within this recent study, both diseased and healthy control mice were studied. The researchers noticed that mice who were suffering from Alzheimer’s, displayed a unique composition of gut bacteria, in comparison to the healthy control subjects. They also took this one step further, examining mice who completely lacked bacteria.

What they found, was that without bacteria, these mice showcased a significantly smaller amount of beta-amyloid plaque within the brain. As we know, these plaques form clumps and are a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s even more remarkable, is that they were able to transform bacteria from one mouse to another, documenting the cause and effect relationship.

When intestinal bacteria was taken from diseased mice and transferred into germ-free mice, they found that more beta-amyloid plaques formed in the brain, compared to those who received bacteria from healthy mice. This direct link, highlighting the relationship between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s, is what makes this study unique.

Based on their findings, this international collaboration has now expanded to included researchers from Belgium and Germany, after receiving a SEK 50 million EU grant. As they continue to study this relationship, they will also test possible strategies to prevent and treat this disease — focusing on diet and new types of probiotics.

The Effect of Gut Bacteria On Neurons

Although this new study is unique, the relationship between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s has already been well established. During the summer of 2016, a study was published in Cell Host & Microbe. Within this study, researchers found that both amyloid plaques and bacteria biofilm cause inflammation — which in turn, damages neurons.

What’s interesting, is that when injected with E.coli and salmonella, mice experienced a triggered response. Their immune system was activated by curli fibrils — proteins that allow bacteria to stick to host tissue. Being structurally identical to the amyloid fibrils found in Alzheimer’s plaques, when exposed to human cells, the same immune response occurred.

Even though these two fibrils have nothing in common in terms of their amino acid sequences, they initiated the immune system all the same. Meaning, it’s the structure of these proteins that matter, and when studying the immune system, Alzheimer’s-related plaques, may ‘look’ like bacteria colonies.

This may explain why we see chronic inflammation in patients with Alzheimer’s — leading to destroyed neurons, and in turn, the neurological symptoms associated with this disease.

Although scientists will need to investigate further, it’s clear that gut bacteria and our brain share a connection. In order to protect your health, it’s imperative that you support your gut. In order to do so, please:

  1. Eliminate — The first step is to eliminate poor quality foods that cause a toxic response. This includes all processed foods, alcohol, and ‘bad’ fats. This cause an inflammatory response in the gut, which may influence neural health.
  1. Repair — Your diet should now consist of fresh, whole foods, increasing your intake of key nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and a range of antioxidants.
  1. Restore — You want good bacteria in your gut, so support optimal balance. In general, a healthy gut should consist of around 85 percent good bacteria — ensuring that an overgrowth of bad bacteria does not occur.
  1. Replace — You will want to achieve optimal levels of digestive enzymes and bile salts, so supplementation is recommended — as well as an increased intake of quality salt.

We may not know everything in relation to Alzheimer’s, but we know enough to kickstart potential preventative measures. After all, as the great Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”



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Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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