Beneficial bacteria is the gut are known to attack pathogens, manufacture B and K vitamins and even act as anti-cancer agents. New research appearing in the journal Cell strengthens the recent scientific understanding that the microbes that live in your gut may affect what goes on in your brain. It is also the first to show that a specific probiotic may be capable of reversing autism-like behaviors.
Researchers have long suggested a link between the gut–brain axis and neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, depression, and eating disorders. The gut contains microorganisms that share a structural similarity with the neuropeptides involved in regulating behavior, mood, and emotion–a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. The body can’t tell the difference between the structure of these mimics and its own cells, so antibodies could end up attacking both, potentially altering the physiology of the gut–brain axis.
Probiotics offset other intestinal bacteria that produce putrefactive and carcinogenic toxins. If harmful bacteria dominate the intestines, essential vitamins and enzymes are not produced and the level of harmful substances rises leading to cancer, liver and kidney disease, hypertension, arteriosclerosis and abnormal immunity. Harmful bacteria can proliferate under many different circumstances including peristalsis disorders, surgical operations of the stomach or small intestine, liver or kidney diseases, pernicious anaemia, cancer, radiation or antibiotic therapies, chemotherapy, immune disorders, emotional stress, poor diets and aging.
No Causal Link, But A Correlation Between Autism-Like Symptoms and Gut Bacteria
“The broader potential of this research is obviously an analogous probiotic that could treat subsets of individuals with autism spectrum disorder,” wrote the commentary authors of the study in Cell, who also included CU-Boulder Research Associate Dorota Porazinska and doctoral student Sophie Weiss.
The study not causally link microorganisms to autism, but rather emphasizes a correlation between specific bacteria and ongoing symptoms and methods of addressing a possible reversal in those symptoms.
The study underscores the importance of the work being undertaken by the newly formed Autism Microbiome Consortium, which includes Knight as well as commentary co-authors Jack Gilbert of the University of Chicago and Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown of Arizona State University. The interdisciplinary consortium–which taps experts in a range of disciplines from psychology to epidemiology–is investigating the autism-gut microbiome link.
For the new Cell study, led by Elaine Hsiao of the California Institute of Technology, the researchers used a technique called maternal immune activation in pregnant mice to induce autism-like behavior and neurology in their offspring. The researchers found that the gut microbial community of the offspring differed markedly compared with a control group of mice. When the mice with autism-like symptoms were fed Bacteriodes fragilis, a microbe known to bolster the immune system, the aberrant behaviors were reduced.
It’s common knowledge that a mother’s milk can help beef up a baby’s immune system. New research indicates that the protective effects of gut bacteria can be transferred from mother to baby during breastfeeding. Work published in Environmental Microbiology shows that important gut bacteria travels from mother to child through breast milk to colonize a child’s own gut, helping his or her immune system to mature.
Scientific evidence is mounting that the trillions of microbes that call the human body home can influence our gut-linked health, but more recently, researchers are discovering that gut microbes also may affect neurology–possibly impacting a person’s cognition, emotions and mental health, said Knight, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist and an investigator at CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute.
“Research has shown that children with ASD commonly have GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms,” said Christine Pennesi, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. “Notably, a greater proportion of our study population reported GI and allergy symptoms than what is seen in the general pediatric population. Some experts have suggested that gluten- and casein-derived peptides cause an immune response in children with ASD, and others have proposed that the peptides could trigger GI symptoms and behavioral problems.”
The Autism Microbiome Consortium hopes to broaden this understanding by further studying the microbial community of autistic people, who tend to suffer from more gastrointestinal problems than the general public.
People with autism spectrum disorder who would like to have their gut microbes sequenced can do so now through the American Gut Project, a crowdfunded research effort led by Knight.
Benefits of Probiotics
The following are the most well documented benefits of taking probiotics regularly:
– Weaken antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, attack new types of pathogens (supergerms) and infections in immuno-compromised people requiring treatment (i.e. resist opportunistic infections like candidiasis)
– Manufacture B vitamins (biotin, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, B12) and vitamin K
– Secrete lactase, an enzyme required to break down lactose in milk
– Act as anti-cancer factors (especially for bladder and bowel) by inhibiting bacteria that convert nitrates into nitrites
– Inhibit bacteria that secrete carcinogens
– Function as natural antibiotics against unfriendly bacteria, viruses and yeast like Candida albicans
– Enhance bowel function and elimination; prevent constipation
– Reverse diarrhea conditions (Crohn’s disease, AIDS, Traveller’s)
– Reduce or eliminate bloating, gas, straining and abdominal pain due to any cause
– Prevent skin problems, especially acne and other skin infections. (FYI – most chronic acne conditions in adults are often improved or eliminated by a good bowel flora balance).
– Protect against the adverse effects of radiation and pollutants
– Reduce blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
– Fight stress and food cravings and thereby prevent or reverse obesity
– Help eliminate bad breath
– Optimize sex hormone levels, enhance fertility and prevent osteoporosis
– Produce lactic acid, improve the digestibility of foods
– Oppose putrefactive bacteria like bacteroides associated with a meat-rich diet
– Treat eczema, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, irritable bowel syndrome, all cancers, gastritis, duodenitis, diverticulitis, food allergies, lactose intolerance, environmental allergies, urinary tract infections, vaginitis, other chronic infections (TB, AIDS, Herpes, venereal diseases) and autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis, lupus, alopecia areata, scleroderma, thyroiditis, etc.)
Probiotic SourcesCultured dairy products like yogurt, acidophilus milk, buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese and kefir are the best known food sources of friendly bacteria. Equally effective probiotic food sources include cultured/fermented vegetables (cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots). Other, lesser known or used food sources of probiotics are sauerkraut and sourdough breads. Ideally, one could get a good supply of probiotics from one or more of these diverse foodstuffs. If dietary sources are not easily available, supplemental probiotic powders and capsules are good alternatives. Choose a brand that has at least 3 different strains of friendly bacteria and between 6 — 15 billion live organisms.
About the Author
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.
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