You may have heard of the gut-brain axis. This refers to the intimate connection between our brain and our digestive system. The two are inextricably linked by nerves and chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which allow them to efficiently “communicate” with one another.
Stressful external events often cause us to experience tummy upset and digestion issues. Conversely, having gastrointestinal illnesses can lead to feelings of anxiousness and depression. It’s clear that gut health can affect mood and vice versa. But did you know that the state of our gut is also connected to cognitive function?
A study on Alzheimer’s patients found that their cognitive function improved after 12 weeks of taking milk made with a blend of four probiotic species, as compared to other patients who took regular milk.
Another study was carried out with individuals ranging in age from 52-75. The participants were divided into two groups – one consisting of those with cognitive impairment and without. Within each group, some received a probiotic and some, a placebo. The group with cognitive impairment that was given probiotics showed improved cognitive scores in comparison with the other groups. This then suggests that cognitive function, in older adults with mild (not severe) cognitive function may be manipulated by changes in the gut microbiome.
Much more research needs to be done and similar results in future studies will have to be replicated to further understand exactly how probiotics affect the gut-brain connection. But for now, it would seem we are at a new frontier of preventive strategies in cognitive preventive health.