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Why the Gut Microbiome Is Crucial for Your Health
Changes in energy or nutrient intake can alter both brain chemistry and the functioning of nerves in the brain. Osteoarthritis OA is divided into five stages, spanning a normal and healthy knee to one that's severely damaged. Pin It on Pinterest. Some drugs can act as teratogens and should be avoided during pregnancy. Pediatricians and other child health care providers can oppose changes in eligibility or financing structures that would adversely affect key programs providing early childhood nutrition. Traditions in complementary feeding or restricted diets because of poverty or neglect may reduce infant intake of many key factors in normal neurodevelopment, including zinc, protein, and iron.

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Altogether, these microbes may weigh as much as 2—5 pounds 1—2 kg , which is roughly the weight of your brain. Together, they function as an extra organ in your body and play a huge role in your health. During this time, microbes have learned to play very important roles in the human body. In fact, without the gut microbiome, it would be very difficult to survive.

You are first exposed to microbes when you pass through your mother's birth canal. However, new evidence suggests that babies may come in contact with some microbes while inside the womb 4 , 5 , 6.

As you grow, your gut microbiome begins to diversify, meaning it starts to contain many different types of microbial species. Higher microbiome diversity is considered good for your health 7. Therefore, there are a number of different ways in which the gut microbiome can affect key bodily functions and influence your health.

There are thousands of different types of bacteria in your intestines, most of which benefit your health. An imbalance of healthy and unhealthy microbes is sometimes called gut dysbiosis, and it may contribute to weight gain Several well-known studies have shown that the gut microbiome differed completely between identical twins, one of whom was obese and one of whom was healthy.

This demonstrated that differences in the microbiome were not genetic 22 , Interestingly, in one study, when the microbiome from the obese twin was transferred to mice, they gained more weight those that had received the microbiome of the lean twin, despite both groups eating the same diet Fortunately, probiotics are good for a healthy microbiome and can help with weight loss.

Nevertheless, studies suggest that the effects of probiotics on weight loss are probably quite small, with people losing less than 2. The microbiome can also affect gut health and may play a role in intestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome IBS and inflammatory bowel disease IBD 25 , 26 , The bloating, cramps and abdominal pain that people with IBS experience may be due to gut dysbiosis.

This is because the microbes produce a lot of gas and other chemicals, which contribute to the symptoms of intestinal discomfort Certain Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli , which are found in probiotics and yogurt, can help seal gaps between intestinal cells and prevent leaky gut syndrome. These species can also prevent disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the intestinal wall 29 , In fact, taking certain probiotics that contain Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli can reduce symptoms of IBS Interestingly, the gut microbiome may even affect heart health A recent study in 1, people found that the gut microbiome played an important role in promoting "good" HDL cholesterol and triglycerides Certain unhealthy species in the gut microbiome may also contribute to heart disease by producing trimethylamine N-oxide TMAO.

TMAO is a chemical that contributes to blocked arteries, which may lead to heart attacks or stroke. Certain bacteria within the microbiome convert choline and L-carnitine, both of which are nutrients found in red meat and other animal-based food sources, to TMAO, potentially increasing risk factors for heart disease 34 , 35 , However, other bacteria within the gut microbiome, particularly Lactobacilli , may help reduce cholesterol when taken as a probiotic The gut microbiome also may help control blood sugar, which could affect the risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes.

One recent study examined 33 infants who had a genetically high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. It found that the diversity of the microbiome dropped suddenly before the onset of type 1 diabetes.

It also found that levels of a number of unhealthy bacterial species increased just before the onset of type 1 diabetes Another study found that even when people ate the exact same foods, their blood sugar could vary greatly. This may be due to the types of bacteria in their guts First, certain species of bacteria can help produce chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

For example, serotonin is an antidepressant neurotransmitter that's mostly made in the gut 40 , Therefore, the gut microbiome may also affect brain health by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves 42 , A number of studies have shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to healthy people.

This suggests that the gut microbiome may affect brain health 44 , A small number of studies have also shown that certain probiotics can improve symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders 46 , Some researchers claim that a high sugar intake causes hyperactivity in children.

Although carefully controlled studies do not support this conclusion, high sugar intake is associated with dental problems. Further, foods high in refined sugars are often low in other nutrients, making it prudent to limit their use. Proteins are made up of amino acids linked together in various sequences and amounts.

The human body can manufacture some of the amino acids, but there are eight essential amino acids that must be supplied in the diet. A complete or high-quality protein contains all eight of the essential amino acids in the amounts needed by the body. Foods rich in high-quality protein include meats, milk and other dairy products, and eggs.

Dried beans and peas, grains, and nuts and seeds also contain protein, although the protein in these plant foods may be low in one or more essential amino acid. Generally, combining any two types of plant protein foods together will yield a complete, high-quality protein.

For example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich combines grain protein from the bread with nut protein from the peanut butter to yield a complete protein. A bean-rice hot dish combines bean and grain protein for another complete protein combination. Protein intake and intake of individual amino acids can affect brain functioning and mental health.

Many of the neurotransmitters in the brain are made from amino acids. The neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine. The neurotransmitter serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. If the needed amino acid is not available, levels of that particular neurotransmitter in the brain will fall, and brain functioning and mood will be affected. For example, if there is a lack of tryptophan in the body, not enough serotonin will be produced, and low brain levels of serotonin are associated with low mood and even aggression in some individuals.

Likewise, some diseases can cause a buildup of certain amino acids in the blood, leading to brain damage and mental defects. For example, a buildup of the amino acid phenylalanine in individuals with a disease called pheylketonuria can cause brain damage and mental retardation.

Dietary intake of fats may also play a role in regulating mood and brain function. Dietary fats are found in both animal and plant foods. Meats, regular-fat dairy products, butter, margarine, and plant oils are high in fats. Although numerous studies clearly document the benefits of a cholesterol-lowering diet for the reduction of heart disease risk, some studies suggest that reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet may deplete brain serotonin levels, causing mood changes, anger, and aggressive behavior.

Other studies have looked at the effects of a particular kind of fat, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, and brain functioning. Although a few studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids are helpful with bipolar affective disorder and stress , results are inconclusive.

High levels of fat and cholesterol in the diet contribute to atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis can decrease blood flow to the brain, impairing brain functioning. If blood flow to the brain is blocked, a stroke occurs. A high alcohol intake can interfere with normal sleep patterns, and thus can affect mood. Alcoholism is one of the most common causes of nutritional deficiencies in developed countries.

Alcoholic beverages provide energy but virtually no vitamins or minerals. A person who consumes large amounts of alcohol will meet their energy needs but not their vitamin and mineral needs. In addition, extra amounts of certain vitamins are needed to break down alcohol in the body, further contributing to nutrient deficiencies.

Thiamin is a B vitamin found in enriched grain products, pork, legumes, nuts, seeds, and organ meats. Thiamin is intricately involved with metabolizing glucose, or blood sugar, in the body. Glucose is the brain's primary energy source. Thiamin is also needed to make several neurotransmitters. Alcoholism is often associated with thiamin deficiency. Alcohol interferes with thiamin metabolism in the body, and diets high in alcohol are often deficient in vitamins and minerals. Individuals with a thiamin deficiency can develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome , which is characterized by confusion, mental changes, abnormal eye movements, and unsteadiness that can progress to severe memory loss.

Vitamin B is found only in foods of animal origin like milk, meat, or eggs. Strict vegans who consume no animal-based foods need to supplement their diet with vitamin B to meet the body's need for this nutrient. Vitamin B is needed to maintain the outer coating, called the myelin sheath, on nerve cells. Inadequate myelin results in nerve damage and impaired brain function.

Vitamin B deficiency can go undetected in individuals for years, but it eventually causes low blood iron, irreversible nerve damage, dementia , and brain atrophy.

Folic acid is another B vitamin found in foods such as liver, yeast, asparagus, fried beans and peas, wheat, broccoli, and some nuts. Many grain products are also fortified with folic acid. In the United States, alcoholism is a common cause of folic acid deficiency.

Folic acid is involved in protein metabolism in the body and in the metabolism of some amino acids, particularly the amino acid methionine.

When folic acid levels in the body are low, methionine cannot be metabolized properly and levels of another chemical, homocysteine, build up in the blood. High blood homocysteine levels increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Even modest folic acid deficiency in women causes an increased risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in developing fetuses. Folic acid deficiency also increases risk of stroke.

Some studies suggest that folic acid deficiency leads to a range of mental disorders, including depression, but this concept remains controversial.

Folic acid deficiency can lower levels of serotonin in the brain. The B vitamin niacin is found in enriched grains, meat, fish, wheat bran, asparagus, and peanuts. The body can also make niacin from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is found in high-quality animal protein foods like meat and milk. Niacin deficiency used to be common in the southern United States but is now common only in developing countries such as India and China.

Niacin is involved in releasing energy in the body from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A deficiency of niacin produces many mental symptoms such as irritability, headaches, loss of memory, inability to sleep, and emotional instability. Severe niacin deficiency progresses to a condition called pellagra, which is characterized by the four D's: The mental Essential vitamins and their effects.

Vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine, is found in many plant and animal foods, including chicken, fish, pork, whole wheat products, brown rice, and some fruits and vegetables. In healthy individuals, deficiency of vitamin B-6 is rare, but certain drugs, including some antidepressant drugs, can induce vitamin B-6 deficiency.

Vitamin B-6 is needed by the body to produce most of the brain's neurotransmitters. It is also involved in hormone production. Although rare, vitamin B-6 deficiency is characterized by mental changes such as fatigue , nervousness, irritability, depression, insomnia , dizziness, and nerve changes. These mental changes are related to the body's decreased ability to manufacture neurotransmitters with vitamin B-6 deficiency.

Just as vitamin B-6 deficiency causes mental changes, so does excess of vitamin B Vitamin B-6 supplements are used by many individuals for a variety of conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, and fibrocystic breast disease.

Doses of mg per day or more can cause nerve damage, dizziness, sensory loss, and numbness. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is plentiful in the diet, particularly in plant oils, green leafy vegetables, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin E deficiency is very rare, except in disorders that impair absorption of fat-soluble vitamins into the body, such as cystic fibrosis, and liver diseases.

Vitamin E deficiency causes changes in red blood cells and nerve tissues. It progresses to dizziness, vision changes, muscle weakness, and sensory changes. If left untreated, the nerve damage from vitamin E deficiency can be irreversible.

Because it is an antioxidant, vitamin E has also been studied for treatment of neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Although results are inconclusive, vitamin E shows some promise in slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found in meats, fish and eggs.

A form of vitamin A, beta-carotene, is found in orange and green leafy vegetables such as carrots, yellow squash, and spinach. Headache and increased pressure in the head is associated with both deficient and excess vitamin A intake.

Among other effects, excess vitamin A intake can cause fatigue, irritability, and loss of appetite. Generally, doses must exceed 25, international units of vitamin A over several months to develop such symptoms. Iron is a trace mineral that is essential for formation of hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.

Iron is found in meat, poultry, and fish. Another form of iron that is not as well absorbed as the form in animal foods is found in whole or enriched grains, green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, and dried fruits. Consuming a food rich in vitamin C, such as orange juice, at the same time as an iron-containing plant food will enhance iron absorption from the food.

Iron deficiency eventually leads to anemia, with insufficient oxygen reaching the brain. The anemia can cause fatigue and impair mental functioning.

Iron deficiency during the first two years of life can lead to permanent brain damage. The mineral magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and bananas. In areas with hard water, the water may provide a significant amount of magnesium.

In addition to its involvement in bone structure, magnesium aids in the transmission of nerve impulses. Magnesium deficiency can cause restlessness, nervousness, muscular twitching, and unsteadiness.

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