Two new studies from this week show a growing consensus that the gut plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases
I've been pacing the room waiting for someone else to comment so that I wouldn't have to go first!
My mother and both grandmothers all suffered from dementia. I'm old enough (72) that I'm already seeing signs of cognitive decline in some among my peer group. Parkinson's is also prevalent.
Five years ago, my wife was taking a proton pump inhibitor daily for what was thought to be GERD - gastroesophageal reflux disease. The package insert for PPIs advises not to take them for more than 14 days, but they are available OTC and many doctors advise patients to take them more or less indefinitely. By reducing stomach acids, these drugs compromise lower intestinal health, reducing protection against pathogenic bacteria, absorption of certain vitamins, particularly B12, and ultimately increasing the permeability of the gut wall. Studies were coming out linking PPIs to dementia.
At SeaTac airport, I read an article in Outside Magazine about Rich Roll and his vegan diet. My wife figured it was worth a shot. By the time we landed on Kauai, we were vegan.
She stopped taking PPIs, and the GERD symptoms went away.
Oh, and I cut my cholesterol in half.
Not saying it's right for everyone, but it sure was for us. Seriously thinking about a gut biome test - anyone done one?
I'll keep making my kombucha then.
Welp... Dementia runs in the family, and I've had a range of gut problems which continue to worsen, so that's fun. I feel both incredibly eager to learn all there is to know about this stuff, and also pretty powerless to help my body, especially considering most of my experiences with doctors in the healthcare system have been dismissive at best.
Thankfully I'm now living in a country which functional public health, and the difference is staggering. Feeling a mix of hope that I can finally do something to help myself, and urgency as my body seems to find creative ways to fall apart.
Definitely a worthwhile focus here, Rae. I don’t know if I mentioned this when we spoke, but COVID-19 intractably altered my gut biome. Nothing I have tried in these 3.5 years - all kinds of diets, supplements, etc. - has moved the needle on this in any way. I had gut biome testing and it came back showing dysbiosis and leaky gut. For months now I’ve been gluten and dairy free, but no real change. All of these studies coming out do worry me a little regarding future serious illnesses. But I legit couldn’t be eating any better than I am right now, so I can’t really worry too much 🤷
I have many reasons to be interested in this topic. My wife will be undergoing IVIG as she has been diagnosed with MADSAM, an autoimmune disease that produces tingling and numbness. If a specific microbiome link can be identified, that will be very useful to know.
I have a history of IBS. So, I need to be very vigilant about my susceptibility to nerodiseases.
And my late mother founded the following two IBD Centers at Weill Cornell (I think I'm permitted to brag about my mother!) I'm fascinated by this research., which us still in its infancy and holds tremendous promise.
Rae, if ever I can be helpful with your own research, happy to make an introduction to the Dr. who runs the Research Institute.
Terrifying but amazing if true-because then we can work on treating it. My mother developed dementia at about 70 (possibly it was earlier). Her sister had Parkinson's. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but it could have also been vascularly related. She smoked, drank pretty heavily (consistently), and didn't really get much exercise though she also didn't really eat much. I can imagine that her gut was not healthy. She also, interestingly, developed colon cancer half way through the dementia period and lost tons of weight. We did surgery and it didn't come back, but I expect that that was not at all good? I have been doing lots of things to avoid her fate, wondering if it was due to her smoking, or due to the Parkinson's connection with family or or or. At least I can not smoke, drink far far less, and take care of my gut. Here's hoping.
Super interesting. It does seem that from almost everything I've read so much goes back to gut health, which is frustrating when you're trying all the things and not getting the best of results. I've also read studies and articles that connect Alzheimer's specifically (I'm not sure about dementia) with poor glucose control. I've even heard it referred to as Type 3 diabetes. Watching several of our grandparents age and suffer from dementia and Parkinsons there does seem to be a definite correlation to quality of diet and how severe things got. So it makes me think that blood sugar control, as diverse a gut biome as possible and a lot of fat to help with brain health are all going to be important things to keep focusing on. I try to focus on what I can control, because the genetic piece is pretty depressing... But hey! Epigenetics are cool and things are not static, so even if it doesn't heal me, maybe it'll be passing something better on to my kids. I'm hoping! I haven't lost faith in the body's innate desire to heal when it's given the right stuff, even if that ends up limited in some way. I'm trying to remind myself me and my body are on the same team :)
So interesting Rae.
The reason GERD is so high on general practitioner’s hit list is the strong link with esophageal and stomach cancer. Incidence of this previously rare cancer is increasing in Europe/US/Australia and at younger ages. This cancer is one where mortality stats are woeful and have not improved in a couple of decades. Its what killed my twin brother at 45.
So I have some complicated thoughts & feelings about antacids, ignoring GERD and dementia (which my Mum has).
According to WHO high blood pressure and diabetes are both significant factors in the increase in dementia, alongside living long enough to get it.
All this info coming out about the gut brain axis is fascinating and useful. I say useful because, to a great degree, we can control what goes into our system and look to create change by improving the health of our microbiome.
I am familiar with this, and other, research. My Mom had advanced cognitive decline so I’ve explored why...why did that happen? One reason may be (aside from the smoking and drinking) that she chose to use artificial sweetener for 50+ years which destroys the gut.
Thank you for this excellent article Rae.
This study doesn’t surprise me at all, but I’m so glad it exists! The gut is linked to everything (at least that’s what I tell myself). My grandmother has Alzheimer’s AND dementia. One time I read years ago that if I eat peanut butter every night then I’d reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s. 🙃 I’ll just read Health Shot instead for the latest briefings.