The balance of “good bacteria” in the gut has been tied to a host of physical health benefits – including a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and immune-system disorders.
But a growing body of research has found good bacteria – the type found in foods with probiotics like yogurt – can also stave off dementia and memory loss, and keep our brains sharp as we age.
“If we pay attention to our good gut bacteria, we can have a meaningful effect on reducing brain degenerative issues, for the first time in history,” says neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D., author of the new book “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain — for Life.”
Dr. Perlmutter tells Newsmax Health
five key probiotics can boost brainpower by combatting inflammation, which contributes to many physical and mental health disorders. Such “healthy bacteria” may even help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, which now strikes five million Americans – a number expected to triple by 2050 as the baby boomers grow into old age.
“What we understand about virtually every neurodegenerative condition is that the cardinal mechanism is inflammation,” he explains, “and what goes on in the gut regulates the level of inflammation, from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes.”
Studies show inflammation is an underlying contributor to age-related mental decline, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, coronary artery disease, cancer, arthritis, weight gain, depression, and attention deficit disorders.
But it can be reversed with foods and supplements that restore beneficial bacteria — probiotics — a term derived from Greek, literally meaning “for life.”
Probiotics, says Dr. Perlmutter, are naturally present in fermented foods. Yogurt is an obvious example, but any food fermented in brine, such as pickles or sauerkraut, is a beneficial source.
Dr. Perlmutter, an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine who is in private practice in Naples, Fla., recommends eating a fermented food at least once or twice each day. His top choices:
Choose regular or Greek yogurt, preferably organic, that contains live cultures and isn’t loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives
This creamy, drinkable yogurt contains a beneficial yeast, antibiotics, and a different combination of probiotics than yogurt.
This fermented, fizzy tea is typically served chilled and contains a small amount of alcohol, which develops naturally during the fermentation process.
This traditional Korean side dish is a combination of naturally fermented vegetables, with a spicy and sour taste. In addition to containing probiotics, it’s a good source of calcium and vitamins.
Other fermented foods:
Fish, meat, and eggs can also be pickled using natural, probiotic-producing methods with brine. In addition, some aged cheeses contain healthy live cultures.
Supplements are a simple way to augment dietary probiotics and restore gut health. Among the five probiotics Dr. Perlmutter recommends in supplements:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: Makes lactase, the enzyme required to digest milk and other dairy foods, and vitamin K, necessary for healthy blood clotting. It helps maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
- Bifidobacterium longum: Improves the ability to digest dairy products, helps prevent diarrhea and food allergies, and works as an antioxidant. Some studies suggest it may reduce anxiety, helps to keep cholesterol levels in check, and combats cancerous growths in the colon.
- Lactobacillus plantarum: Fortifies the gut lining, which reduces the risk of leaky gut, which triggers inflammation and autoimmune reactions. It quickly digests protein, which reduces risks of food allergies and helps maintain healthy levels of brain friendly omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins.
- Lactobacillus brevis: Enhances the activity of natural killer cells that fight invaders, and increases levels of a growth hormone in the brain, called BDNF.
- Bifidobacterium lactis: Also called Bifidobacterium animalis, it improves digestive comfort, helps to knock out pathogens that cause diarrhea, such as salmonella, and enhances immune defenses.
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