Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t start in the brain.
Let’s repeat that: Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t start in the brain. Obviously, it’s a brain disease, but it’s reductive to pretend that the brain is separate from the rest of your body. Your brain and body are intertwined, and all sorts of processes can be set off by the food that you eat, how much you exercise, your level of daily stress, and how well you sleep.
That’s good news. It means you can make sustainable changes and actually improve your cognitive function!
One of the important health markers for Alzheimer’s disease is gut microbiome health. Getting tested is crucial to understanding your next steps in treatment. But why is it such a big deal?
What Is the Gut Microbiome?
Microbiome is a word you may be hearing more frequently – it’s even been used in an advert for body wash! But what is it? A microbiome is a colony of microorganisms living in a particular area. These organisms include bacteria, fungus, and viruses, and humans have several colonies living on and in their bodies – most notably, you have one on your skin, another in your mouth, and an extensive colony in your gut. These colonies are huge – trillions of microbes all living together.
It may make you shudder to think about all that bacteria inside and out – but don’t do anything risky to try and get rid of them! By and large, these organisms are your friends, and while it may seem like they’re taking advantage of you – you reap the benefits from your relationship with them.
Your gut microbiome is an important part of your digestion. It helps protect the delicate lining and mucous barrier of your gut, and many strains of bacteria take otherwise indigestible food like fibre and turn it into important amino acids needed by your body. Your gut microbiome is also a crucial part of your gut-brain connection – it can communicate with your brain! So a healthy gut microbiome is crucial to a healthy brain.
What’s the Link Between the Gut Microbiota and Alzheimer’s Disease?
Bredesen protocol practitioners are aware that there is no one cause of Alzheimer’s – there are at least 36 risk factors. But with the increased research into the gut microbiome, it’s clear that an imbalance there can contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
An imbalanced gut microbiome contributes to Alzheimer’s and dementia in three main ways:
- Through the creation of amyloid-beta protein – When the ‘bad’ bacteria outnumber the good in your gut, certain strains contribute the building blocks to make amyloid-beta protein. Amyloid-beta can form a plaque in your brain, and is a notable contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Through inflammation – A damaged gut microbiome causes inflammation in the gut that can become systemic, even spreading to your brain. When the bacteria is unable to protect the delicate lining of the gut it results in local inflammation and leaky gut. Inflammation is a central mechanism in Alzheimer’s disease as it escalates into the body attacking itself.
- Through the blood-brain barrier – Once inflammation and leaky gut are underway, harmful strains of bacteria have the potential to travel through your bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier. Very early research shows a possible connection between schizophrenia and bacteria in the brain. Harmful oral bacteria can also get past the blood-brain barrier and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, so we believe research in the future can prove that gut bacteria can also make the journey.
An unhealthy gut microbiome doesn’t start and end in the gut – alongside gastrointestinal upset you may also experience cognitive decline. But what can you do about it?
Do Probiotics Prevent Alzheimer’s?
Preventing or reversing cognitive decline involves making a number of changes to your lifestyle – it’s not as simple as drinking a probiotic yoghurt and getting on with your day. But certain probiotics can be beneficial for your health and can help improve the condition of your gut and microbiome.
At CogMission we place importance on a solid foundation of a good diet. Taking a probiotic is not going to help you if you’re also eating sugary, overly processed foods – unfortunately, the bad bacteria love to feast on sugar. Making sure you eat real fresh foods containing plenty of fibre can really help your gut. Choosing foods that contain probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (the food the good bacteria likes to eat) is the best way to a balanced microbiome.
Examples of probiotic foods include:
- Kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables – all contain Lactobacillus plantarum, which is great for maintaining nutrient uptake, and reducing gut inflammation. Sauerkraut and pickles contain Lactobacillus brevis which improves immune function and provides brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a neuroprotective protein.
- Fermented dairy such as live yoghurt – contains Lactobacillus acidophilus which can reduce yeast overgrowth, improve cholesterol, and contribute to a healthy immune system. Also contains Bifidobacterium lactis which helps fight against harmful food-borne bacteria, supporting your immune system, and improving your digestion.
Taking care of your gut microbiome can improve your digestion, cognition, and even your mood. It’s a powerful step towards better health. However, if you begin to feel discomfort after taking probiotics, it’s wise to cease taking them and undergo gut health testing.
Gut Testing for Alzheimer’s With Bredesen Recode Practitioners in the UK
At CogMission we offer a comprehensive GI Mapping service to all our patients so we can find out about your gut microbiome and take steps to improve it. A GI map allows us to examine your individual microbiome profile and tailor our approach to your gut health. Testing your microbiome gives us specific information about your microbiome make-up and how to treat it. As some of our patients have an overgrowth of the good bacteria in the small intestine, probiotics can sometimes cause a worsening of symptoms. At CogMission we believe in the importance of testing before treating – so we won’t give you recommendations until we’ve run tests.
There’s a clear link between the condition of your gut and your cognitive function, and it’s a powerful contributor to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
We leave no stone unturned when you work with us to make changes to your health. We love to see your progress and we focus on tackling the multiple factors that contribute to cognitive decline. Your diagnosis is not the end – we’d be delighted to help you embrace a brighter future.
If you or a family member have an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis or cognitive impairment and you’re interested in getting a GI map in the UK, we’d love to hear from you. At CogMission we provide a free 15-minute consultation by phone to discuss your options and eligibility, so fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch.