Is the Cure for Alzheimer's In Your Gut?
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June 10, 2018

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]



Ever had a gut feeling that something was wrong? We all have,
and this natural sensory perception, this sixth sense, confirms
what we all instinctively know ---that our guts are connected to
our feelings.  Scientists now agree with us. They call the
connection between our gut and our nervous system the "gut-
brain" axis. In fact, the longest nerve in our body is the vagus
nerve that run
s from our gut directly to our brain.

But could the gut-brain axis be even more important to our
brain's health than scientists initially thought?  It appears so.
New research is linking your gut to the worst of our brain's
degenerative diseases,
Alzheimer's and dementia in general.


How are our brains affected by what's i our guts? How are the
guts of Alzheimer's patients different from t
he guts of people
with  brains?


Your Gut Is Your Second Brain



Your gut was once thought of as just a series of moist pipes
where food was broken down for digestion. But that view of
the gut was strikingly simple. To describe your gut as just a
pliable pipe is like describing your brain as just a soft
cauliflower.

The gut is in fact a
world. It houses a complex biosystem called
a microbiome, a world filled with more bacterial cells. These
bacteria are so numerous that there are more of them --- 150
times more in fact --- than there are human cells in your body.
In many respects, your health depends on the state of your
microbiome.


Recognizing the central role the microbiome in controlling the
health of the host human body, the US government has
provided $100 million to fund a study of the microbiome
through our National Institutes of Health.


Much work has been done in the past 10 years to understand
the microbiome. Scientists have learned, for example, that the
bacteria in the microbiome are responsible for helping to
control your metabolism. Doctors have implanted the fecal
matter from the microbiome of a healthy person into the
microbiome of a person with multiple sclerosis and other nerve
disorders and seen them recover. Studies have shown a direct
connection between the state of the microbiome and autism
spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, and
Parkinson’s disease.


Alzheimer's Disease Linked to Your Microbiome




































Not surprisingly, scientists have begun to explore the
connection between dementia and your microbiome.

In 2009, a research team led by Dr. Andreas Baumler of the
University of California Davis discovered your body's immune
system reacts in the same way to Alzheimer's plaques as it
reacts to biofilm produced in your gut.  


A biofilm is a protective covering that covers bacteria and helps
to keep it from being destroyed. You know an example of
biofilm as the slimy feeling substance that grows in your teeth
if you forget to brush them.

When your body encounters biofilm in your gut, very specific
proteins and antibodies react. These same antibodies, which
are a part of your immune system, react to the amyloids found
in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The inflammation caused by the immune system's reaction to
the amyloids damages the brain's neurons, producing the
symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Let's step back and examine what this means. Your body's
immune system sends a specific antibody weapon to attack a
particular kind of biofilm found in your gut. Yet it also sends
this same specialized weapon to attack amyloid plaques in your
brain, producing damaging inflammation.

Why does this specialized weapon, designed just for the
biofilm, also attack the amyloids in the brain?

Could it be that your immune system is mistaking the amyloids
for the gut biofilm?  

Dr. Baumer thinks so. “Alzheimer’s disease may be a case of
mistaken identity,” he said.


In addition to the UC Davis work, there have been several
studies on mice that show that if you manipulate the gut
bacteria, you actually can change the rate of deposition of
amyloids in the brain.


We will wait to see this experiments in human studies, but the
results point to a highly promising and manipulable connection
between your gut bacteria and dementia.


How Should You Keep Your Microbiome Healthy?

The gut microbiome of Azheimer's disease patients looks very
different from the microbiome of healthy people.


As one 2017 study said, "gut microbiome of AD participants has
decreased microbial richness and diversity and a distinct
composition compared to asymptomatic age- and sex-matched
Control participant ".  This study was led by Dr.
Nicholas M.
Vogt of the led by Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Center, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public
Health
.

What type of bacteria are missing in Alzheimer's patients? In
general,
the study found that their guts are missing bacteria
from the phyla Firmicutes. By the way, Firmicutes also are
missing or have a low count in people who have diabetes or
who are obese.

The guts of Alzheimer's patients also have too many of another
type of bacteria called " Bacteroidetes".  If you look at the guts
of people with diabetes, obesity or Parkinson's, you will also
find that they are abundant in Bacteroidetes. Finally,
Alzheimer's patients lack enough Bifidobacterium.


We do not
yet know exactly what to do to change an unhealthy
microbiome to one that will not deposit
Alzheimer-related
amyloids. For example, do we just inject a bunch of Firmicutes
into the gut of people with Alzheimer's?

What we do know is what a healthy microbiome looks like, in
general, and which foods help to get it that way.

A healthy microbiome, consists of populations of beneficial
bacteria, known as probiotic bacteria including Firmicutes.  
These probiotic bacteria, like all living things, need specific food
to sustain them.

Probiotic bacteria need "prebiotic" food sources. These include
radishes, carrots, apples, all forms of indigestible fiber such as
inulin, found in asparagus artichokes and other foods.


In addition to eating prebiotic foods, you can also add god
bacteria to your gut by eating certain foods, especially
fermented foods such as sauerkraut and Kimchi. Fermneted
foods have fallen out of favor in the US and this decline may go
a long way in explaining the rise in diseases such as diabetes
and Alzheimer's. You should also consider adding yogurt with
beneficial bifidobacterial cultures to your diet.



Finally, you should always be aware that taking any course of
antibiotics will likely wipe out both good and bad bacteria in
your gut and you will need to build up your microbiome. Again,
remember to eat prebiotics and add to the head count of good
bacteria with fermented foods and yogurt.




















































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