Managing the Gut-Brain Axis
Dr. Jen Palmer, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director
Did you know that the gastrointestinal tract communicates with the nervous system? Believe it or not, it's called the gut-brain axis and through recent research it's been determined to be an incredibly important relationship for keeping the brain healthy. The gut-brain axis is complex and three primary mechanisms support communication within it: 1) nervous system communication, 2) hormone signaling, and 3) immune system mediators. The gut-brain axis has become a means for treating various diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and depression.
Serotonin, also known as the happy neurotransmitter, is key in preventing mood disorders. A lesser known fact is that a large percentage of serotonin resides in the gastrointestinal system, making it a huge component of the gut-brain axis. Serotonin regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Depression is considered a deficiency of serotonin and the medications designed to treat depression are focused on increasing the availability of this neurotransmitter. People with Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases have lower levels of serotonin transporters and, as a consequence, can also suffer from mood and sleep disorders. Serotonin is also believed to be neuroprotective and can protect the brain from damaging factors that could lead to Alzheimer's disease.
It's critical to maintain a healthy bacterial environment in the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the "microbiome"—in order to optimize serotonin levels. The microbiome influences the gut-brain axis and can be an effective part of keeping a healthy nervous system. The gastrointestinal tract helps support healthy neuronal development through its communication with the nervous system. But if the microbiome is off-kilter, meaning there is a lack of quantity, quality, and variety of the good bacteria, bad bacteria can take over and there is a potential for neurodegenerative diseases to develop.
Studies show probiotics are fundamental to maintaining a vigorous digestive tract and contribute to the foundation of good health. Of course, probiotics have demonstrated both immediate and ongoing positive health benefits for numerous chronic gastrointestinal conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, they have been shown to help prevent food and environmental allergies, as well as Candidiasis, and help to degrade toxins. There is even proof that some strains of probiotics bind mercury and other heavy metals, preventing their absorption into the body.
However, many contemporary lifestyle choices negatively impact the quality and quantity of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Antibiotic use, a high-fat/low-fiber diet, and gastric acid-inhibiting drugs disrupt the healthy balance of bacteria and create an environment that favors the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Although probiotics are found in certain foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, their viability and amount may be questionable. Many people require a concentrated supply provided in broad spectrum probiotic supplements.
Consider these probiotic options to balance a healthy microbiome and improve your overall health and well-being!
Jarro-Dophilus® Mood contains four documented probiotic strains, plus clinically-tested natural PharmaGABA®, in a unique formula that supports the gut-brain axis. It promotes mood balance and reduces the digestive discomfort associated with occasional stress. The probiotic blend contains an efficacious combination at 10 billion cells per day, including Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Lactobacillus rhamnosus R0011, Bifidobacterium longum R0175, and Bifidobacterium longum BB536. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps balance mood, improves adaptability to stress, and supports relaxation and calmness.
The specific probiotics included in FLORASSIST® Mood have been shown to positively influence biochemical signaling between the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system, with positive effects related to mood. It contains three billion colony-forming units of two probiotic strains supported by human clinical research to show improved mood—Lactobacillus helveticus strain R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum strain R0175. Human clinical research conducted on this dualprobiotic combination demonstrated improvements in mood, reduction in perceived stress, and promotion of relaxation. Two daily capsules of FLORASSIST® Mood is all you need to promote relaxation and improve mood.
Flora Biotic Ultra contains 35 Billion CFUs, providing a broad spectrum of 14 different probiotic strains. Only one capsule per day is required, offering convenient dosing. All strains are specified and guaranteed, through laboratory validation, and only the strains listed are those found in the product. There are nine different Lactobacillus strains and four different strains of Bifidobacterium, creating a well-rounded formula. The addition of NutraFlora™ scFOS, a "short chain" fructo-oligosaccharide, provides nutrition for the microflora and promotes adhesion and growth in the intestinal tract. To maximize delivery of the beneficial bacteria to the intestinal tract, the vegetarian capsules are enteric coated to ensure survival through gastric acid. Disintegration tests are performed on every lot to ensure proper intestinal release.
Primadophilus Optima Digestive Balance is a shelf-stable probiotic formula designed to support digestive balance and immune health. It provides 50 billion CFUs/active cultures per capsule and contains 100% HDS (Human Digestive Strains) probiotics. HDS Probiotics are probiotic strains that were originally isolated from the natural human intestinal microbiota as opposed to being isolated from animals, plants, dairy, or soil sources. Today, these strains are grown and fermented in a controlled environment by some of the most respected probiotic producers in the world.
Multiple strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, including researched strains NCFM®, Bl-04®, and Bi-07®, to help fortify and balance intestinal microflora and support immune health. They come in delayed-release, vegetarian capsules that are shelfstable and no refrigeration is required.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences October 2017, Volume 74, Issue 20, pp 3769– 3787. Microbiome, probiotics and neurodegenerative diseases: deciphering the gut brain axis. Susan Westfall, Nikita LomisImen KahouliSi Yuan DiaSurya Pratap SinghSatya Prakash.