Role of gut brain & probiotics in cognition & creativity | By Prof Anees Akhtar, UK

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Role of gut brain & probiotics in cognition & creativity

RESEARCH about brain gut connection was published in April 2021 in Harvard health publishing blog site.

This report emphasizes that on giving attention to gut brain connection, you will find that gut and brain are connected with each other both physically and biochemically in a number of different ways, like: Vegas nerve system, Neurotransmitters, Gut microbes and their chemicals that affect the brain.

As we now know that the gastrointestinal tract is sensual in triggering the signs of anger, anxiety, sadness and stress in the brain through the stomach.

The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestine. The proof of gut brain connection is that when we start thinking about food, our stomach starts releasing juices before we start eating food.

It means when our intestine has any pain or uncomfortable feelings, it sends signals to the brain. Similarly, the brain under any anxiety, pain or stress sends signals to the gut.

It is now proven clinically that most of the gastrointestinal abnormalities are due to anxiety, stress & depression; since both brain & gastrointestinal systems are connected with each other.

This communication system between gut & brain is called gut brain axis. These two organs are connected with each other physically and biochemically in different ways.

The neurons are cells found in your brain and central nervous system that command your body and mind to work and function according to their nature and behavior.

Gut contains approximately 500 million neurons which are connected to the brain through chemicals called neurotransmitters.

For example, serotonin is responsible for happiness and optimization of the overall pleasure centre of the brain.

Microbes in our gut also help to produce neurotransmitter called ? aminobutyric acid (GABA) which optimizes the feelings of fear and anxiety.

Research studies show that probiotics can increase the production of GABA and hence help reduce anxiety and depression.

Gut microbes also make other chemicals: Trillions of other microbes in your gut also make other chemicals by digesting fiber like short chain fatty acids, butyrate and propionate, etc. that also affect your brain health and cognition.

They do so by reducing your appetite. Short chain fatty acids like propionate are high energy compounds that reduce the food intake and increase the mental activity and cognition.

Short chain fatty acid like butyrate produced by gut microbes help to form connections between brain and blood which is called blood brain barrier.

Gut microbes also metabolize chemicals like acids and amino acids to produce other chemicals significant in cognition.

Bile acids are chemicals that are synthesized by the liver and beneficial for absorbing fats from the food we eat.

They are also very beneficial to the brain and cognition. Research on mice shows that stress and anxiety suppress the production of bile acids from gut bacteria and also silence the genes that are involved in production of bile.

Reviews from new research show that we are aware of another developed neural system in our gut about which we have known a few decades ago.

Now we know how our Gut brain the second brain communicates with our actual brain. Proper communication and interaction between these two brains helps improve our overall mental health and cognitive ability.

These two brains together handle an important role in our bodily and mental health.

Nowadays behavioural medicine experts are treating stomach disturbances by boosting patient’s cognition and mental health by prescribing them the medicines that alter their behaviours.

We know that gastrointestinal problems create anxiety and psychosis. If a person’s psychological conditions like anxiety, psychosis and depression can be fixed properly then the patient’s gastrointestinal disturbance would automatically be resolved and vice versa .

Researchers are learning more and more about connections between different parts of the body and the functions of neural systems.

Gut has a cumulative effect on neurotransmitters and the network of nerves extending from the brain to all other major organs.

We have not known much about our nervous system until last decade. Our nervous system also includes neurons and neurotransmitters extending throughout the digestive tract from the esophagus, through stomach, intestine and down to anus.

This may also be associated with alternations in the gut microbiome. Researchers in the field of neuropsychology speculate that any disruption in the normal bacterial populations could cause the immune system to overreact and contribute or cause inflammation.

Medical researchers are also seeing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, amyotrophia, lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, panic anxiety and other new conditions in the context of gut heath.

Now stomach ulcers, constipation and other gastrointestinal conditions are being considered to be treated in line with brain disorders and anxieties.

The gut brain connection: Susan McQuillan, MS RDN wrote an article in psycon about gut brain connection and mental health, according to this finding, bacterial population of gastrointestinal tract may help to improve the symptoms of mental health and mental disorders.

The microbiome or gastrointestinal bacteria play an important role in the health of your gut and other physical health conditions like inflammatory skin disorder and obesity.

Researchers have found that thousands of different types of good bacteria that populate the microbiome prevent the growth of bad bacteria that can harm your body.

Disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract could result in the development of diseases that occur throughout your body and brain.

Researchers speculate that infections occurring during early life could negatively affect the mucosal membrane in the gastrointestinal tract and can disrupt the gut brain axis.

Other causes of mucosal membrane disruptions are poor diet choices, radiation treatment, antibiotics, and frequent use of chemotherapies.

To promote good balance of microbiome, we should eat a well balanced diet that includes foods with probiotic or prebiotic ingredients that support microbial health and help maintain the gut balance.

Probiotic foods: Probiotic foods are those that are naturally available in supermarkets and are prepared carefully by controlled fermentation processes.

Foods available in supermarkets are beverages like plain yogurt, kefir, cheese, apple cider, vinegar, etc.

but these foods lose their probiotic effect when we put them in the process of cooking and preserve them at very high temperature.

Similarly, other foods including onions, garlic, cabbage, legumes and oats, etc., are known as prebiotic foods.

These foods not only contain probiotics, but also facilitate the growth of the microbiome because they contain digestible fibbers that are fermented and consumed by gut bacteria.

Health professionals speculate that patients who will intake these probiotic supplements could improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and these could help to cure other psychological and neurological conditions.

But it will still need more research to find out which bacterial species and combination of species would be helpful if they are delivered to the digestive system.

It is still to find out about their side effects and allergy reactions along with other medication regimes.

Probiotic therapy by microbial transplant: One way to deliver probiotic to the gastrointestinal tract is by taking food rich in probiotics.

Another way under investigation is to treat gastrointestinal disorders by transmitting fecal matter or stool from healthy individuals to the bowels of someone with chronic gastrointestinal conditions, which could repopulate the gut with diverse species of bacteria and could also help to reduce the symptoms of psychosis and depression.

The significance of this method for treating gastrointestinal disorder is considerable. Its value to cure psychiatric symptoms has not been fully investigated.

The idea that probiotics have an effect on psychotic conditions like bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, etc. , is still in the infancy of its research and clinical trials.

Though, some positive and promising effects and outcomes have been seen, but still it needs to be tested on large populations.

It still needs a lot of clinical investigation to determine which type of patients could truly benefit from probiotic or psych-biotic treatment for specific mental health disorders.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in London.

 

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