Study Finds Link Between Gut Microbiota, Sleep Quality and Cognitive Flexibility

Sleep and ProbioticsAccording to a new study, poor sleep quality was linked with composition of the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility in healthy older adults.  Low amounts of bacteria in the phyla Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae, were associated with poor sleep quality as well as performance on specific cognitive tests.

Stool samples were provided by study participants.  Data on sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index were also given by participants.  Cognitive flexibility was assessed through the completion of tests like the Stroop Color Word Test.  Results showed that when participants experienced better sleep both higher proportions of Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae were present and improvements were seen in better cognitive flexibility.

The bidirectional interaction between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract which is called the gut-brain axis has been increasingly gaining attention from both consumers as well as scientists.  Research links the microflora found in the digestive system to many markers of health including reduced anxiety levels, depression and overall general mood.  Scientific evidence shows partial sleep deprivation may change the gut microbiota.  Also seen in scientific literature is dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance, caused by shift work and jet lag which may actually promote glucose intolerance and obesity.

A 2014 survey by Datamonitor Consumer ranked insomnia as the fourth most relevant health issue experienced by Americans by percentage after stress, tiredness and fatigue, and allergies.  Middle aged women were the most worried about insomnia.

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Probiotics Backed for Weight Loss Benefits

Weight Loss and ProbioticsA new meta analysis and review shows Probiotic supplementation containing various strains of Lactobacillus have been shown to cause a small but statistically significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.

15 studies of Probiotic supplementation studies were reviewed.  Larger reductions in body weight, BMI (body mass index) and fat percentages were seen in the supplementation group when compared to the participants receiving a placebo.  Even short term supplementation with probiotics (Less than 12 weeks) show small reductions in fat percentage, BMI and body weight.

The studies included in the review lasted between 3 and 12 weeks.  All the studies but three used Lactobacillus.  More than one of the studies reviewed were not registered and were considered a higher risk of bias.

Other reviews done in the past have found similar conclusions on BMI and body weight reductions; however in some of those studies reviewed participants also received Prebiotics in addition to Probiotics.

Further long term studies are needed to examine the effects Probiotic supplements may have on different measures of body weight.

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Nestle`-Backed Study Links Probiotic Strain and Depression

gut health probioticsA new study backed by Nestle` shows a specific strain of a probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum, helped relieve symptoms of depression as well as alleviating gastrointestinal upsets.

Over 40 adults who had experienced Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in addition to mild to moderate amounts of depression or anxiety participated in this study.   Half the group took a dose of Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) daily and the other half of the group took a placebo.  After six weeks researchers found 64% of the patients taking the probiotic experienced reductions in depression scores when compared to 32% of the participants taking the placebo.  Additionally functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), showed depression score improvements were associated with changes in multiple areas in the brain involved with mood control.  No changes were seen in anxiety scores however improvements in quality of life were seen in the group supplementing with the probiotic.

Although the results of this study are promising, larger scale trials are needed.

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Could Probiotics Restore Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Auto-Immune Disorder?

Probiotics and ImmuneA new study finds that probiotics may aid in restoring imbalances in gut bacterial in patients with the auto-immune disorder systemic sclerosis.  Systemic sclerosis affects connective tissue in the body.  It is not a common condition, but results in the skin thickening and becoming hard.  Occasionally this condition creates problems with blood vessels and internal organs.

17 adults with systemic sclerosis from UCLA, 17 adults with systemic sclerosis from Oslo University Hospital and 17 healthy adults participated in this trial.  Stool specimens were used to determine the amount and types of bacteria present.  Participants with systemic sclerosis had significantly lower amounts of gut bacteria believed to protect against inflammation like Bacteroides.  Additionally the participants with systemic sclerosis were found to have higher amounts of bacteria, like Fusobacterium, which actually promote inflammation when compared to those without this auto-immune disorder.

Researchers believe that probiotics are helpful in restoring the bacterial balance in the gut in individuals suffering from systemic sclerosis and play a role in improving these patients quality of life.

Further testing is planned using larger patient groups.

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Digestive Health Digest

Digestive HealthIn the past, when discussing digestive health, products targeting the prevention of gas and bloating, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation were in the forefront.  Specific conditions usually addressed were Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Colon Cancer prevention and general support for healthy elimination.  Products like Fiber and Oat Bran were touted as providing cardiovascular support as well as reducing the risks of colon cancer and promoting increased regular elimination.  Today people are beginning to understand that there is a connection between overall wellness and digestive health. They are taking a more proactive role in searching for products that support this health connection without looking to necessarily treat a specific condition.

Probiotics have taken the center stage as more studies show the connection between digestive health and overall wellness.  Ensuring that the Probiotics available contain the correct strains and a proper transport system are keys to realizing the benefits Probiotics are able to provide.  Up and coming interest in digestive health support supplements are in the areas of Prebiotics and Digestive Enzymes.

Prebiotics help the body produce its own friendly bacteria while Probiotics involve introducing foreign strains of friendly bacteria into the digestive tract.  Prebiotics basically insure success of the Probiotic strains in the gut.  They are synergistic in that taken together they provide the maximum benefits available for digestive health.

While not as well known as Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes are also critical for optimal digestive health.  As we age our body natural slows down its production of Digestive Enzymes.  Additionally stressful situations as well as over processing of our food sources may cause a lack of Digestive Enzyme production in our intestinal system.  Without adequate Digestive Enzymes feelings of bloating and increased gas production may be experienced.  A reduction in nutrient absorption also occurs which may lead to a reduction in overall immunity and health as well as digestive disturbances.

According to the National Digestive Disease Clearinghouse approximately 60 to 70 million people are affected by digestive conditions every year.  Taking a proactive role to supporting healthier digestive health seems to be a step in the right direction.

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Could Probiotic Ease Depression? Mouse study suggests so…..

According to a new animal study using mice, Lactobacillus, a probiotic, could reverse symptoms of depression.  A combination of molecular and computational techniques as well as behavioral techniques were used to test the role these gut microbioata may play in behaviors associated with depression, since these disorders may run in families and the microbiome may be a causative agent or a factor of this disease.

Researchers using a mouse model looked for a biological process, which occurs in living organisms, which may influence mood.  Results of this study found a reduction in levels of Lactobacillus in mice under stress as well as increased levels of circulating Kynurenine levels, which is a form of inflammation that has been linked to depression and suicide risks.

By restoring intestinal Lactobacillus levels improvements in abnormalities in behavior were seen.  Researchers did stress however that the symptoms that they identified in the mice are “depressive-like” behaviors.  It is hard to determine if the mice are actually experiencing depression since mice have no way of communicating their feelings.  Researchers do feel confident that the findings from this study may open new opportunities in the treatment of depression and other conditions like anxiety.

The researchers plan to begin studying the effects of Lactobacillus in people with depression in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), because MS sufferers often experience depression.

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Probiotics Have A “Positive Effect” on Stress and Anxiety

stress anxietyAccording to a new meta-analysis and systematic review consumption of probiotics may have a positive effect on mental health by reducing the psychological symptoms of perceived stress, anxiety and depression.

The study reviewed the outcomes of seven previous studies with over 300 volunteers both prior to and post supplementation with a probiotic supplement.  The studies published before July, 2016 were randomized and placebo controlled.  The meta-analysis showed statistically significant improvements in the psychological symptoms of perceived stress when compared with a placebo.

A newfound interest in the gut-brain axis and new evidence showing intestinal microbiota’s ability to influence the central nervous system’s function have lead to the conclusion that probiotics may have a positive effect on mood and psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression.

Further studies to determine the benefit of probiotic supplementation and symptoms of diagnosed clinical depression are needed.

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