A round-up of recent, ponder worthy gut health (yes, gut as in part of our digestive tract) news you may have missed:

Probiotic Beer may become the new yogurt

If you have never gotten on the probiotic (healthy bacteria for your gut) bandwagon because you didn’t like yogurt or if you have never been a beer drinker because you thought it too unhealthy, brace yourself.   Ayla Bystrom-Williams, a 29-year-old home brewer, may be about to make our worlds collide with a healthy probiotic hybrid beer.  And this isn’t just some pie in the sky dream of hers.  She’s found some heavy-duty brewing lab partners at Los Alamos (yes, where they developed the atomic bomb) and an alcohol survivable form of probiotic.

“Ayla Bystrom-Williams has spent much of the past several years experimenting with kombucha, an ancient fermented tea that has surged in popularity over the past decade among the health-conscious. The tart-flavored drink relies on a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (Scoby) that can survive in an alcoholic solution. This means its probiotic benefits are maintained after fermentation, whereas when exclusively yeast-based drinks like beer are brewed, the culture usually dies.” ~~ Guardian, One woman’s quest for healthy beer gets boost from lab that birthed atomic bomb

Okay just a guess, but I’d say she is on to something HUGE!  Particularly since …

Wellness may need a gut check

One of my favorite health related truisms via the movie Princess Bride “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything!” seems to be in need of an update.  Ongoing research in multiple fields indicates the well quoted line should really be “If you haven’t got a healthy gut, you haven’t got anything.”  A growing body of evidence is uncovering links (there is a whole “gut-brain axis“) between gut health and brain disease, mood and neurological disorders.

“…our microbes – especially those living in the gut – have a powerful effect on the brain, influencing our emotions, our thoughts and even our memory. And when those microbes are disturbed, so too are our physical and mental health. For example, researchers have now linked obesity, anxiety, depression, autism, eating disorders and more to the gut and its flora.”  ~~ The Microbiome & the Brain – A New State of Mind (video link)

By studying gut bacteria and brain activity, neurologists have found one underlying similarity to disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, multiple sclerosis, etc. That similarity is inflammation.

“All of these neurodegenerative issues, even depression, are fundamentally inflammatory disorders having their genesis be imbalances of the gut bacteria,” Perlmutter says. “The same chemicals of inflammation that you would find elevated in a person with arthritis are found elevated in Alzheimer’s as well.” ~~ Dr. David Perlmutter, The link between brain disease and our gut

Anyone else seeing an annual gut check in our futures?

Toxin Is As Toxin Does

When it comes to food, the sides of good and evil would seem pretty clear.  Nutrients are good guys. Toxins are evil — except when they are not.  Researchers are finding that it is not only micro nutrients, but natural toxins found in fruits and vegetables actually play a significant role in our bodies ability to stay health and fight against unhealthy exposures.

“…one common theme of exercise, fasting, and at least a few of the specific chemicals [toxins] in fruits and vegetables that we looked at, is they increase production of proteins that are called neurotrophic factors. And it’s been known for a long time that these neurotrophic factors are critical for learning and memory and for the survival of neurons.

So we think that the — there’s a mild stress imposed on nerve cells by vigorous exercise, fasting and some of these chemicals in fruits and vegetables and that at least one of the adaptive responses we see is increased production of neurotrophic factors, which then protect the neurons and promote optimum brain function.”  ~~ Dr. Mark Mattson, The Latest In Anti-Aging Research: The Power Of The Toxins In Vegetables – The Diane Rehm Show

Don’t expect to see healthy toxins listed on the FDA nutrition guidelines anytime soon.   They are still struggling to explain good fats vs bad.

Give Team Gut Its Due

Cartoonist and author Randall Munroe acknowledges gut bacteria as part of the xkcd: Team Effort and gives gut credit where gut credit is due —

team_effort gut health
Given the role they play in every part of my body, really, they deserve this award more than me. Just gotta figure out how to give it to them. Maybe I can cut it into pieces to make it easier to swallow… — Webcomic by xkcd: Team Effort (cc: a-nc 2.5)

Hey, if our gut bacteria are able to control our body and mind, then the whole “Who’s got a bigger population” is moot.  I say we teaming up with our gut microbiome and start practicing our gut concession/acceptance speeches now!

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Okay, your turn.  Heard any interesting gut health news lately?  Seen any ponder worthy posts or news in general that may have been missed by the eagle eyes of most media outlets?  Share your thoughts and/or your news in comments!

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