Your Gut Biome and Your Brain

  • Did You Know…that your daily diet could be eroding your cognitive function? 

    You’ve likely heard about your “gut biome” and how it affects your health.  But what is the gut biome, exactly?  Simply put, this term refers to the 100 trillion microorganisms that live in your gut and feed off the food you eat.  This may sound like an alien invasion, but it’s actually a very healthy symbiotic relationship that has a cascade of effects on your overall health.

    The beneficial bacteria in your gut…

    • Support your immune system
    • Prevent obesity and diabetes
    • Nourish your digestive system

    Gut bacteria also help prevent leaky gut, a syndrome that increases inflammation throughout your body and appears to be one of the main instigators of autoimmune disease and neurological disorders.

    Your brain is also intricately linked to the microflora in your gut.  Dr. Perlmutter, a board-certified neurologist, fellow of the American College of Nutrition (ACN), and author of the New York Times bestseller Grain Brain, says gut bacteria “determine whether we’re going to have a healthy brain or not, whether our brain is going to function well or not, and whether our brain is going to become diseased or not.”

    A new study conducted by Oregon State University researchers, the Microbiology Foundation, and the National Science Foundation confirms that foods high in unhealthy fats and sugar can…

    • Alter the health and diversity of our bacterial systems
    • Ultimately weaken our brains

    How High-Fat and High-Sugar Diets Hurt 

    The study, published in the journal Neuroscience, confirmed the findings of previous studies, namely that diets high in sugar or fat impair cognitive function and behavior by impacting the healthful bacteria that make up your gut’s microbiome.

    Bacteria in your gut manufacture neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, as well as essential vitamins for brain health.  When these bacteria are damaged, so is your cognitive function.

    Researchers fed laboratory mice different diets and then tested their mental and physical function.  They also tested for the impact of these diets on gut bacteria.

     After 4 weeks, mice fed either high-fat or high-sugar diets showed decreased performance on the tests compared to mice fed a balanced diet
     Those on a high-sugar diet dropped the most in short- and long-term memory and in cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt to changes and unexpected situations)

    The mice were all young, and scientists hypothesize that the effects of a high-sugar or high-fat diet on brain health may be even more distinct in older mice or in people with already compromised gastrointestinal health.

    How You Can Protect Your Gut Health

    The first step to healing your gut is to cut out the unhealthy fats and sugars, meaning refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and simple carbohydrates, as well as trans fats and excessive saturated fats.

    Better choices are natural sugars such as honey, and healthy fats like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s.  Most importantly, aim for whole, unprocessed foods instead of processed foods in boxes and bags whenever you possibly can.