Studies are suggesting that probiotics may slow the aging process, and not just in the brain. That's because the key for living a healthy and long life is believed to start in our gut bacteria. Scientists have discovered that changes that lead to the formation of many age-related neurodegenerative diseases have been linked to inflammation, which are often triggered by changes in the gut. Probiotics are well known for their ability to protect the gut from unhealthy changes, so research is confirming they may also protect the brain from degeneration while aging.
Scientists have discovered what's known as the gut-brain axis. Research shows that the brain and gut are connected through biochemical signaling between the nervous system in the digestive system, and the central nervous system that includes the brain. The main connector between the gut and the brain is known as the vague nerve, which is the body's longest nerve.
The gut is often referred to as the "second brain" because it produces similar neurotransmitters that your brain does, including gamma-aminobutyric acid, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in maintaining positive moods and feelings of well-being.
For example, a study conducted in 2013 discovered that women who ate yogurt that contained probiotics twice a day for four weeks, had better moods and experienced greater calm while shown photographs of angry and frightened faces compared to the control group. They also discovered that the participants who consumed yogurt had lower activity in the insula, which is the part of the brain that processes internal body sensations, such as pain in the gut area.
So, it makes sense that gut microbiomes would be helpful in protecting your brain health as you age. Many different factors can cause them to become imbalanced, including poor diet, stress, exercise, certain medications, and aging. According to a recent clinical study, scientists discovered that the process of aging caused major changes in the small intestine microbiome. The study also found that the guts of older participants contained dangerous amounts of bacteria that can lead to age-related diseases.
In another study, scientists examined the relationship between the gut microbiome and brain health. They were investigating whether treatments that help maintain digestive healthy and function might also protect against, or improve, age-related diseases and neurodegeneration. The researchers wanted to find out if probiotics really can support digestive health, and in turn, improve cognitive function in older people, including Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive impairment. The review concluded that taking probiotics as dietary supplements can enhance cognitive function in older patients.
Another clinical trial found that a daily dose of specific probiotics taken over 12 weeks resulted in a significant improvement in elderly Alzheimer's patients on the Mini-Mental State Examination scale. This scale is the standard measurement of cognitive impairment. Previous studies in mice have also demonstrated that probiotics can improve memory and learning, and reduce depression, anxiety, and OCD-like symptoms.
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