By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
My recent return from training with the Institute of Functional Medicine, reinvigorated my belief in the power of individualized medicine.
This week on my homepage, I highlighted top stories in holistic health of May 2013 and continued with my discussion on a recent headliner in the controversy between nature vs. nurture. I also revisited Angelina Jolie’s decision and the implications of genetic testing for cancer risk.
My goal is to help expose the power of nutrigenomics and epigenetics to the mainstream. This means one day everyone will have heard of how foods and lifestyle choices can act as medicine and have the ability to effectively modulate DNA expression. My blogs are my way to communicate this whole picture of a truly integrative medicine model to the public.
Last week, on this blog, I showed how a simple mammalian basic instinct, sleep, provides so many benefits.
Now, it’s time to look at how to keep our brains nice and astute to make those choices from empowerment vs. fear!
As with most health, brain power can start with what we eat and how we digest our food…
So, feel free to skim through the articles highlighted below. I’ve provided emphasis for the main points and the links for the full text.
Enjoy the brain food! 🙂
The Power of the Gut
A rediscovered study from 1948 may reveal an amazing “new” function of your stomach: filtering out pathogenic microbes before they can pass through to your intestinal tract
As you age, your healthy gut flora diminishes and your stomach becomes less acidic, which may set you up for gastrointestinal dysbiosis and a number of serious health problems that follow from it, including dementia
Beneficial gut bacteria play important roles in vitamin production, mineral absorption, detoxification, and helping prevent diabetes, digestive issues, neurological problems, cardiovascular disease, and even acne
Your microbiota also plays a large role in your metabolism; sugar, refined carbohydrates and junk foods cause certain bacteria to release endotoxins, which drive inflammation and cause metabolic changes that result in overproduction of insulin, increased appetite, increased fat storage and obesity
One of the best ways to protect your health is by keeping your gut flora healthy with naturally fermented foods; one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies with each meal is ideal, but you may need to work up to this gradually; instructions are given for how to make your own naturally fermented vegetables at home with just a few simple tools .
Mercola, J. Learn How to Make Cultured Veggies at Home to Boost Your Immune System. Mercola.com. June 1, 2013.
Alzheimer’s Link to Gut Flora
In a study published in the July issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe, UC Davis researchers report that both amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and structures made by some gut bacteria likely elicit the same response by human immune cells.
“Alzheimer’s disease may be a case of mistaken identity,” said Andreas Bäumler, a professor of microbiology and medical immunology. Bäumler and his colleagues showed that the immune systems of mice injected with E. coli and salmonella are triggered by curli fibrils, fiber-like structures consisting of curli proteins that allow bacteria to stick to host tissue and to each other and form colonies.
Curli fibrils are morphologically identical to amyloid fibrils found in Alzheimer’s plaques. When they presented human cells with the two kinds of fibrils, they saw the same immune response — even though the two have nothing in common in their amino acid sequences.
“Our results suggest that it’s the structure of these protein aggregates that matter and that, to the innate immune system, Alzheimer’s plaques may look like colonies of bacteria. This would result in the chronic inflammation we see in Alzheimer’s disease that damages neurons,” Bäumler explained.
UC Davis Health System. Alzheimer’s-causing amyloid and bacteria trigger same immune response. http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20090909_Alzheimers/
Probiotics and Brain Health
This study provided powerful information on how fermented probiotics modulate our mood and emotional response via the gut-brain. Cool Stuff.
The study tested the effect of consuming a fermented milk with probiotics product (FMPP) by healthy woman for 4 weeks. The product contained Bifidobacterium animalis subsp Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis. The women’s brain response was measured by functional MRI studies.
Four-week intake of an FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.
Kirsten Tillischemail, et al. Consumption of Fermented Milk Product with Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity (abstract). Gastroenterology. March 7, 2013.
Probiotics for Mood
More support on buggy mental and emotional health:
Background & Aims: Changes in gut microbiota have been reported to alter signaling mechanisms, emotional behavior, and visceral nociceptive reflexes in rodents. However, alteration of the intestinal microbiota with antibiotics or probiotics has not been shown to produce these changes in humans. We investigated whether consumption of a fermented milk product with probiotic (FMPP) for 4 weeks by healthy women altered brain intrinsic connectivity or responses to emotional attention tasks.
Methods: Healthy women with no gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms were randomly assigned to groups given FMPP (n = 12), a nonfermented milk product (n = 11, controls), or no intervention (n = 13) twice daily for 4 weeks. The FMPP contained Bifidobacterium animalis subsp Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis. Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after the intervention to measure brain response to an emotional faces attention task and resting brain activity. Multivariate and region of interest analyses were performed.
Results: FMPP intake was associated with reduced task-related response of a distributed functional network (49% cross-block covariance; P = .004) containing affective, viscerosensory, and somatosensory cortices. Alterations in intrinsic activity of resting brain indicated that ingestion of FMPP was associated with changes in midbrain connectivity, which could explain the observed differences in activity during the task.
Conclusions: Four-week intake of an FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.
Tillisch, K, et al. Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity (abstract). Gastroenterology.Volume 144, Issue 7, June 2013, Pages 1394-1401.e4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508513002928
Under the Sea-Fish Oil for Mood and Memory
Besides probiotics and the proper gut microflora, the proof of how modulating our brain health with fish oil keeps on swimming in….
DHA and Memory
I learned at the conference that DHA actually works to suppress the stress receptors in the brain responsible for a shrinking memory center!
This study reports:
DHA supplementation improved memory and the RT of memory in healthy, young adults whose habitual diets were low in DHA. The response was modulated by sex. This trial was registered at the New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (http://www.anzctr.org.au/default.aspx) as ACTRN12610000212055.
Stonehouse, W, et al. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial (abstract). Am J Clin Nutr May 2013. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/03/19/ajcn.112.053371.abstract
Fish Oil and Krill Curb PMS
Many women suffer from mood issues related to hormonal fluctuations. This article is in support for my secret weapon to beat PMS. To my delight, my clients have reported on the efficacy of this fishy pill to act as a biochemical modulator of inflammatory prostaglandins. This has profound effect on their symptoms, especially when I combine it with an individualized liver-hormonal support product that fits their unique symptom picture.
The article states:
Doctors believe that dysmenorrhea may be caused or exacerbated by high levels of pro-inflammatory, hormone-like messenger chemicals (prostaglandins) made in the uterus from omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fats compete with inflammation-moderating omega-3s for space in our cell membranes and immune processes, and the standard American diet is grossly overloaded with omega-6 fats from vegetable oils…
Researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences recruited 184 PMS patients for a well-designed trial … randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled (Sohrabi N et al. 2013).
The women were divided into two groups, each assigned to a different daily regimen for three months (90 days):
· Placebo capsules
· Fish oil capsules providing 2 grams of omega-3s
The scientists gauged compared the severity and duration of the women’s symptoms at the outset and again at two points: 45 days and 90 days:
· After 45 days, the average severity of depression, anxiety, lack of concentration and bloating were significantly lower in the fish oil group.
· After 90 days, the average severity of depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, bloating, nervousness, headache and breast tenderness were lower in the fish oil group.
As the researchers wrote, “It appears that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the psychiatric symptoms of PMS including depression, nervousness, anxiety and lack of concentration and may also reduce the somatic symptoms of PMS including bloating, headache and breast tenderness.” (Sohrabi N et al. 2013)
Weatherby, C. Omega-3s Curbed PMS. Vital Choice Newsletter. May 20, 2013.
More Natural Tips for Brain Support
The following additional excerpts support the use of natural substances to boost brain below.
Below you’ll find information on:
1. A study that showed the connection between intake of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid on slowing the atrophy of the brain in Alzheimer’s patients.
2. How the spice cinnamon could prevent the formation of the tau “tangles” in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients linked. These “tangles” are linked to neurodegeneration. (Could it be due to the blood sugar lowering affect?? At IFM last week, we learned the connection between a sugary diet and dementia risk!)
3. The link between another supplement derived from another sea critter, oysters, Phosphytidylserine, and the slowing of memory loss and improved brain health.
4. Chocolate’s potential role to support cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s patients.
Details Below for those who wish to read more!
B Vitamins Beat Dementia?
A cheap regimen of vitamins in use for decades is seen by scientists as a way to delay the start of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, a goal that prescription drugs have failed to achieve.
Drugmakers including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) have spent billions of dollars on ineffective therapies in a so-far fruitless effort to come up with a treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Now, in the latest of a steady drumbeat of research that suggests diet, exercise and socializing remain patients’ best hope, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that vitamins B6 and B12 combined with folic acid slowed atrophy of gray matter in brain areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Gerlin, A.Vitamins That Cost Pennies a Day Seen Delaying Dementia. Bloomberg.com. May 20, 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-20/vitamins-that-cost-pennies-a-day-seen-delaying-dementia.html
Cinnamon vs. Alzheimer’s
The compound responsible for giving cinnamon its sweet, bright smell could potentially play a role in warding off Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study inthe Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the cinnamon compounds cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin could help stop “tangles” of tau protein — notorious in the memory-robbing neurodegenerative disease — from forming in the brain.
Tau proteins are more likely to form clumps and tangles with age, but people with Alzheimer’s are known to have more of these clumps than people without the disease. Researchers found in cell lab research that cinnamaldehyde could help to prevent these aggregations by protecting the tau proteins from oxidative stress.
The Huffington Post. Cinnamon Compounds Could Help Protect Against Alzheimer’s, Study Finds . Huffington Post.com: Healthy Living. May 27, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/27/cinnamon-alzheimers-cinnamaldehyde-epicatechin_n_3333403.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living
Phosphotidylserine Supplement to Improve Brain Functioning
Widely available in pharmacies and health stores, phosphatidylserine is a natural food supplement produced from beef, oysters, and soy. Proven to improve cognition and slow memory loss, it’s a popular treatment for older people experiencing memory impairment. Now a team headed by Prof. Gil Ast and Dr. Ron Bochner of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Human Molecular Genetics has discovered that the same supplement improves the functioning of genes involved in degenerative brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Familial Dysautonomia (FD).
Science Daily. Common Food Supplement Fights Degenerative Brain Disorders, Study Suggests. Science Daily. Com. May 21, 2013.
Could Chocolate Make You Smarter?
The researchers hailed from Philadelphia’s Temple University, Washington’s Georgetown University, and Italy’s University of L’Aquila, University of Siena, and Sbarro Institute.
They tested cocoa flavonols on human brain cells burdened by the beta amyloid plaque linked to Alzheimer’s, and detected critical benefit (Cimini A et al. 2013).
The international team found that cocoa flavonols activated the “survival pathway” for a critical brain chemical called BDNF. BDNF fosters growth of brain-cell networks and helps brain cells survive stresses.
(Omega-3s and turmeric also appear to trigger BDNF, via their nutrigenomic effects on brain and nerve cells’ working genes … see “Alzheimer’s Drug Apes Omega-3s and Berries” and “Curry Spice + Omega-3 Curbed Spine Injuries in Rats”.) The findings hold important implications for preventing and/or ameliorating dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.
Weatherby, C. Chocolate Sparks a Key Brain Protector. Vital Choice Newsletter. May 23, 2013.
Finally, Dr. Mercola has a great summary list for brain health at the bottom of his article:
Mercola, J. Vitamin B May Protect Against Alzheimer’s, Say Researchers. Mercola.com.June 03, 2013.
Be sure to share your favorite tips for brain boosters below. 🙂