In the scientific publication, "Alzheimer's Disease and Gut Microbiota" published in the 59th volume, 10th issue of the Journal, Science China Life Science, (2016) authors Hu,X, Wang, T, and Jin, F present the possible links between gut microbes and Alzheimer's Disease. This is a summary and interpretation of their findings.
THE ALZHEIMER’S CRISIS
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia affecting memory, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive disease, increasing in risk with age. Current knowledge is that it is irreversible.
This topic is “near and dear” to my heart. When I was a child, my Great Uncle committed suicide because he found out that he had Alzheimer’s Disease. At the time, my viewpoint of this tragedy was that of a child. I didn’t understand why he chose to do that. Now that I’m an adult and I understand more, it breaks my heart to know how he must have been feeling to make such a decision.
I know he is not alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
MAYBE GUT BACTERIA?
In the past, the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease has focused on genetics and environment (lifestyle, hazardous materials, etc…). Scientists are now starting to question if the gut microbes play a role, as well. The rapid increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses in recent years suggest that something more
In the publication, “The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Gastrointestinal Disease,” found in the 6th volume of the Journal, Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology (2015), authors Parekh, P. et al. review the role of the GI tract microbes in human diseases. This is a summary and interpretation of their findings.
With almost 1,000 different species (not individuals, species) of bacteria living in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, there is a lot going on in there! Our gut can be a GI “battlefield” full of friends who help us by breaking down toxins, feeding us nutrients, and producing energy for our bodies, or a field full of enemies breaking through holes in our intestines, killing off the good guys and taking over.
Most of us know that obesity is when you have excess body fat. Sometimes, when we have excess body fat, especially in the abdomen, we can also have Metabolic Syndrome. Did you know that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that almost 35% of American adults live with Metabolic Syndrome? What does Metabolic Syndrome mean? Metabolic syndrome is when you have a disorder of energy storage. This often results in a larger waist line, high blood pressure, excess fats in the blood (cholesterol, triglycerides) and insulin resistance (as seen in Diabetes Type II). These factors can lead to heart problems and even death. Why are we talking about this in an article about gut bacteria? Well, researchers are now learning a lot more about how gut bacteria affect food energy storage and insulin resistance.
THE “GOOD GUYS”
Certain bacteria in your gut, called Methanogens, break down sugars in your food into products called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are energy for the host (that’s you)! Pretty neat, huh? SCFAs have also been found to be protective against diet-linked obesity and insulin resistance.
Want a long, healthy life? Start BEFORE you are born: epigenetics, breast feeding, probiotics and more.
In the publication, “Epigenetic Matters: The Link between Early Nutrition, Microbiome, and Long-term Health Development” found in the 5th volume of the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, Indrio, F., et al describe how the mother’s nutrition, infant diet and gut bacteria, even before the child is born all contribute to health outcomes as the child develops into adulthood. This is a summary and interpretation of their findings.
This study focuses on the idea of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the area of study that means “on top of genetics” and describes the changes that things like environment, bacteria and nutrition can make in your body without even touching your DNA. You get your unique set of DNA, with all the genes (small, coding regions of DNA that determine your appearance and function) it carries from your mom and dad. However, the genes can be flipped on and off, like a light switch. A gene turned on makes a product that can be seen and affects you. A gene turned off, is just sitting there, not making anything. All that makes you who you are is a total result of which of your genes are flipped on.
FIRST 1,000 DAYS
Did you know this flipping on and off of genes starts even before you are born? But, what flips them on and off? It can be the food you eat, the bacteria and microbes living in your gut, or your environment and what you are exposed to. The time of life when this is most active is the “first 1,000 days” from conception until age two. The result of this time period can “pre-set” a person for later development of chronic conditions, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and much more.
The human gut is the place where microbes, like bacteria, touch and talk to the immune system cells on a constant basis. The intestine is covered with patches of immune cells. During the first years, this
Wow, I can’t believe this is happening! My very first blog post. I have dreamed of this for years. And, the best part is that I get to write about my favorite topic, the Human Gut Microbiome!
Some of you already know me and some of you don’t, so I’ll fill in a few details here to lay a foundation for this blog and to provide a direction as to where I see it going.
In May 2005, I completed my Ph.D. in Microbiology, with a focus on HIV-1 research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As a young woman with big, fancy dreams I started my graduate program in the hopes that I would be a part of finding the cure for HIV-1 infection and AIDS. It had always bothered me that people who were living with the virus suffered physically, mentally and even socially because others may have shunned them out of fear. Well, during my studies I learned a lot about the virus and Microbiology, in general. We never found the "cure," but we added our piece of information to the puzzle. In my opinion, the most valued skills I walked away with were the ability to problem solve and the ability to read and understand scientific publications.
With the ink still fresh on the three new letters after my name, I began my teaching career. Over the years, I have taught at Colleges and Universities both in brick-and-mortar buildings and online. I have taught Biology, Microbiology and Anatomy classes mainly to Pre-nursing and Pre-Pharmacy students. It has been twelve years now. Teaching young people the beautiful details of life and how amazing
Kenda Rigdon, Ph.D. Nutrition Sciences Research Associate, Wife, Mother of 3 and Enthusiast for all things Microbiome and gut related!
Check out this blog in the April, 2018 edition of the Birmingham Metro magazine: b-metro.com/b-yourself-kenda-rigdon/34337/
Connect with me...