Is Your Gut Giving You Dementia?

Neurogastroenterology is a cutting-edge field that studies how the brain and gut interact in order to better understand and manage digestion and digestive disorders. What scientists have discovered is that these two areas of the body are closely connected, and this relationship is referred to as the brain-gut axis. Luckily for you, there are ways you can improve your digestion, such as taking probiotic supplements and improving your diet.

Nerve fibers in the small and large bowels transmit information to and from the brain. In addition, neurotransmitters and hormones controlled by the brain regulate secretion activity of the gut. This back and forth, gut-brain connection might explain why a recent paper published in Neurochemical Research proposed a link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and cognitive impairment or dementia.

A diverse population of bacteria lives inside the digestive tract. Studies have shown that bacterial imbalance in the gut can lead to IBS. With symptoms like chronic abdominal pain and fluctuating bowel issues, IBS is a complicated disorder that can last for decades. One possible remedy for these miserable conditions is probiotic supplements -the microscopic ?good? bacteria that can wipe out most intestinal problems. 

In addition to digestive issues, some people with IBS experience respiratory, neurological, neuromuscular, psychological, and sleep problems, which the paper suggests may be due to the bi-directional pathways between the gut and the brain. It is thought that inflammation in the gut caused by IBS can also trigger systemic inflammation, which may impact cognition, if the brain - specifically the hippocampus and cerebellum - are affected.

For now, the root cause of dementia is not known, and there is no cure. However, this important paper argues that awareness of IBS, knowledge of its impact to the brain, and proper therapeutic measures might prevent cognitive impairment and reduce chances for developing dementia.

The Vitamin B12 Connection

Some experts believe there is a connection between blood levels of vitamin B12, IBS and cognitive decline. Vitamin B12 and folate team up to produce DNA and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 also helps produce the myelin sheath responsible for protecting nerves and nerve impulses.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause symptoms like fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss and cognitive decline, which are known symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer?s disease. Research from Tufts University determined that 56 percent of individuals between 26 and 83 years of age have blood levels of vitamin B12 that are low-to-normal in range or worse, which can produce memory loss, cognitive decline and more symptoms depending on the levels.

Among those who experience the greatest risk for B12 deficiency are people with IBS and other digestive disorders. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of cognitive impairment may want to have a B12 test to rule out the possibility of a deficiency. If deficiency is a factor, a doctor may advise regular B12 shots or suggest a sublingual B12 supplement.

To encourage a healthy environment within the gut, people with IBS should:

  • Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes
  • Limit the consumption of milk and foods that contain gluten or high amounts of saturated fat
  • Control stress with meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques
  • Limit dairy, fruit, artificial sweeteners, and sorbitol or xylitol, if chronic diarrhea is a problem
  • Avoid beans, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower to reduce bloating and gas (or take digestive enzymes when consumed)
  • Get regular cardiovascular exercise
  • Try probiotics supplements like Flora Life.

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