Posted by Dr. Rob Silverman on May 11, 2020 11:07:34 AM
Your microbiome—the teeming community of trillions of bacteria in your colon—plays a central role in both a healthy digestive system and a healthy brain. The two are connected through your body's complex immune system. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, the immune impacts can affect not just digestion but also the brain.
The gut-brain immunity link starts with the digestive tract. From mouth to anus, your digestive tract is in constant contact with both friendly and unfriendly microbes. Not surprisingly, at least 70 percent of your immune cells are found in the digestive tract. Wrapped around your small and large intestine is a layer of tissue crammed with immune cells called the gut-associated lymphatic tissue, or GALT. The tissue is in close contact with the gut lining and your enteric nervous system. It's poised to pounce on any dangerous microbes that make it into the intestines and multiply enough to be a threat.
A diverse gut microbiome is the best way to keep the bad bacteria from becoming a problem—the neutral and beneficial bacteria crowd the bad ones so much that they can't usually get enough room to multiply. They usually can't get a foothold large enough to provoke your immune system into responding.
When they do, your body generates an immune response to get rid of the invaders. You become inflamed: immune cells rush to the rescue and produce a wide range of chemical messengers called cytokines. The immune cell messengers are vital to coordinating and controlling the inflammation and the immune response. They tell more immune cells to join the battle, control fever, make you feel tired, so you'll slow down, make your blood clot faster, and make you lose your appetite.
When the attacking bacteria have been dealt with, different chemical messengers tell your body when to stop the acute stage of inflammation and begin the return to normal. Acute inflammation may make you feel lousy for a few days, but the inflammatory response is temporary. Your body usually handles acute inflammation efficiently, turning it on and off smoothly.
Sometimes, acute inflammation doesn't resolve correctly. It lingers, causing ongoing low-grade symptoms. When inflammation is long term, your immune system is stuck on high alert. Your production of inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1 and interleukin–6, continues, and the cytokines and other proteins that should turn them off don't get produced in the right amounts. When you keep making inflammatory cytokines, they can damage your brain, causing brain fog, Low mood, and irritability. Long-term, inflammatory cytokines lay the groundwork for neurodegenerative disease and cognitive impairment.
When the gut-brain connection is disrupted by inflammation, my treatment goal is to restore a healthy balance and bring the immune system back to normal.
The first step is to help restore the balance in the microbiome through dietary improvements. I ask my patients to move away from the standard American diet (SAD), which is high in processed foods, sugary and salty snack foods, dairy foods, gluten, and artificial sweeteners and additives. This diet is the underlying cause of most inflammation. It skews the bacteria in the gut toward those that produce inflammatory metabolites—byproducts of bacterial digestion—that force the immune system to respond. The metabolites also are sensed by the vagus nerve, the cranial nerve that innervates much of the digestive system. The vagus carries the message to the brain, which can trigger a further inflammatory cascade.
I ask my patients to switch to a diet rich in fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, and high-quality fats and proteins. The change in the diet gives the microbiome the dietary fiber and good fats it needs to restore a healthy balance and stop sending inflammatory signals to the immune system.
Dietary changes take a while to kick in, however. Also, many of my patients have inflammation from poor diet and lifestyle. They need more help, and they need it faster than dietary changes alone can provide. I recommend a neuroimmune protocol that's designed to support the brain and the gut simultaneously*.
The brain health protocol has three components: Amyloid Benefits™, Brain Benefits ™, and MegaProbiotic™ ND 50. All three work synergistically to nourish the critical connection between the brain and the gut microbiota*.
The Amyloid Benefits™ supplement is designed to help support a healthy inflammatory response and to limit the formation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain*. These protein clumps are the hallmark of age-related memory loss. Amyloid plaques and tau tangles themselves may cause inflammation in addition to immune-modulated inflammation. By slowing plaque formation and by supporting a healthy inflammatory response, Amyloid Benefits™ help with the normal mental decline and cognitive impairment of advancing age*.
Colostrum is a key ingredient in the Amyloid Benefits™ formula. Colostrum is an excellent source of proline-rich peptide (PRP) complexes. These signaling proteins are essential for moderating the cytokines that control the immune response and support a healthy inflammatory response.* The formula also contains curcumin, ashwagandha, pomegranate extract, and palm fruit bioactive complex (PFBC). These ingredients can help restore normal amyloid and tau metabolism, limit free radicals in the brain, reduce inflammatory cytokine production, and help regulate the stress response by supporting healthy levels of the stress hormone cortisol*.
The Brain Benefits™ liquid formula draws on the power of omega-3 fatty acids for improving brain performance, limiting age-related cognitive decline, and improving focus and mood*. The formula contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), essential fats that are primary structural components of brain cells. High levels of both DHA and EPA are crucial to maintaining the cellular integrity of brain cell membranes and for better cognitive function, memory, and alertness*. High levels of DHA are particularly helpful for controlling inflammation in the brain.* DHA and EPA are also important for supporting the structure and function of the microglia cells—the brain's clean-up crew.* These cells remove debris, including amyloid proteins, from the brain. Keeping them functioning optimally is essential for supporting a healthy inflammatory response and avoiding memory and learning decline associated with aging.*
Inflammation that arises in the gut reaches the brain. Probiotics—nutritional supplements of beneficial bacteria—help restore a good balance in the gut microbiome, which in turn helps support a healthy inflammatory response everywhere in the body.* The MegaProbiotic™ ND 50 formula uses nine bacterial strains chosen for their value in restoring better gut balance and promoting a healthy inflammatory response.* The strains include several known to be helpful for improving brain function by modulating inflammatory cytokines.* Bifidobacterium longum, for example, helps with feelings of anxiousness and low mood, while another strain, Lactobacillus plantarum, has been shown to promote the functionality of the gut-brain axis, and L. rhamnosus can help improve mood in the face of stress.*.
For health issues affecting both the gut and the brain, especially those that contribute to occasional inflammation, I've found that Amyloid Benefits™ and Brain Benefits ™, in combination with Mega Probiotic ™, can have a powerful effect.* They put my patients on the road to improved gut and brain function.*
Dr. Rob Silverman
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