- What Does Gut Bacteria Have to Do With Brain Health?
- What Are Neurological Disorders?
- Common Types of Neurological Disorders
- Using Microbiome Testing for Neurological Disorders
The human body is intricately regulated by autonomic nervous systems that propel us through our day-to-day. Our brains seem to be at the center of our central nervous system, steering the ship. This ship slowly becomes the Titanic when we develop a neurological disorder. Neurological disorders cause a range of symptoms that impact everything from depression to productivity to your overall health.
Some of us develop neurological symptoms over time, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Others are born genetically predisposed to a mental health condition, like depression. Meanwhile, there are some children born with their neurological disorder, like autism. No matter where they stand on the spectrum, there is one common factor — gut bacteria.
What Does Gut Bacteria Have to Do With Brain Health?
A growing amount of evidence suggests your gut plays a much more significant role in how your brain operates. The apparent overlap between neurology and gastroenterology is well-defined through the gut-brain-axis.
As more science comes to light, we’re coming to realize that specific bacteria influence the development of many neurological disorders. This realization might one day help neurologists sidestep neurosurgery and opt for less invasive procedures or treatments.
In this piece, we’re not going to talk about cases of neurological disorders, such as brain injury or spinal cord injury. There’s more at play in these instances than just gut bacteria, and we don’t want to cause any confusion about how the gut-brain connection works. Here’s an easy-to-read and science-backed guide about neurological problems associated with gut health.
What Are Neurological Disorders?
Our body is a dense network of nerves, forming the nervous system. This system, along with the brain and spinal cord, ensures the smooth functioning of the human body.
One could picture this network as autonomous nervous systems that rely on nerve signals to communicate accurately. Even the tiniest of electrical abnormalities could be disastrous!
So, what happens when a slight structural, electrical, or chemical anomaly resides in your nervous network? It generates incorrect signals and subsequently spirals into full-fledged brain disorders and infections! This phenomenon is exactly what we will be probing into today!
Despite which type of neurological disorder you’re diagnosed with, the term “neurological disorder” implies that information isn’t being shared adequately throughout your autonomous nervous systems. As traditional Eastern medicine suggests, “As above, so below.” Via the gut-brain-axis, those with a neurological disorder most likely have miscommunication going on in the gut microbiome, too!
Common Types of Neurological Disorders
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 6.8 million people die from a neurological condition each year . Furthermore, over one billion have been diagnosed with various types of neurological disorders.
The stigma over mental health is lifted, and it’s time that we get the help that we need and deserve. Here are some of the most common neurological infections and disorders.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a devastating neurological disorder that poses a threat to the body’s normal functioning. The onset of this disease is due to the death of neurons that are responsible for voluntary movements.
While the cause of Lou Gehrig’s Disease is unknown in most cases, the disease symptoms are definite and brutal in nature. Many experience stiff muscles and loss of sensation. Eventually, the person will develop difficulties in speech, movement, and breathing.
With no cure in sight, most cases spell eventual death within a period of 2-3 years. However, some variants of this disease are being battled. One example is Stephen Hawking, a renowned cosmologist who did not let his diagnosis deter him from his phenomenal work in cosmology. He continued to communicate until his death at 76 years old.
Although there is no cure, that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. A recent study looked at the progress of ALS and motor functions in mice when treated with 11 different bacteria strains . Akkermansia muciniphila showed much promise in preventing neurological problems associated with this crippling disease.
Researchers noted that Akkermansia muciniphila created a metabolite known as nicotinamide (NAM). Experts believe this molecule played a significant role in improving the motor functions of the test subjects.
Touted to be one of the most ruthless forms of dementia, this disease attacks one mentally rather than physically. The patient loses the ability to retain memories and begins to display behavioral abnormalities and memory impairments. It is the sixth leading cause of death in America with no cure in sight so far.
Recent studies show that gut bacteria influence the creation of the β-Amyloid Peptide pathway . This protein plaque binds to receptors in the brain, which can cause the death of grey matter. A loss of grey matter leads to various mental disabilities, including this condition.
This study compared germ-free mice, conventionally-raised mice, and genetically-altered mice gut microbiomes. Results found that the development of the β-Amyloid Peptide pathway is essentially inevitable.
However, it becomes prevalent with more peptide growth when specific bacteria take over, such as Verrucomicrobia and Firmicutes. In promising news, those who had higher levels of Bacteroidetes seemed to exhibit fewer cognitive issues.
Symptoms of dementia are treatable, and there are help-centers at one’s disposal these days. Please seek help at the first sign of memory loss.
Autism has grown increasingly common over the decades. This rise in awareness has helped many children develop into productive parts of our society. Autism is a spectrum, so symptoms will vary.
However, examples of symptoms include:
- Eye Contact Avoidance
- Unique Posture and Movements
- Trouble With Language Comprehension
- Social Interaction Issues
- Poor Coordination
While there is no cure for autism, there might be preventative measures to take. A meta-analysis of the connection between autism and gut bacteria found that mice with an autism-like condition developed low levels of Blautia and Bifidobacterium in their microbiome. Furthermore, people with this condition tend to have lower levels of Coprococcus, Prevotella, and Veillonellaceae .
Pregnant mothers might want to discuss probiotic interventions. Meanwhile, those who are trying to conceive might want to consider a vaginal and gut microbiome test. You’ll get a better idea as to which bacteria you are passing along to your child.
Lastly, probiotic intervention might help improve communication throughout the central nervous system. In turn, this option might be viable for those who don’t have extreme examples of symptoms. Please discuss all of these options with your physician before making changes to you or your child’s wellness plan.
People often wish for the day when the word ‘cancer’ will just mean a star-sign. Inflicting pain, fear, psychological stress, and trauma are some of the traits that cancer brings along. Brain tumors are one of the more feared variants of this monstrous disease. When abnormal cells begin to take up residence in the brain, it is never good news.
Physical symptoms include:
- Speech Issues
- Trouble Walking
- Poor Coordination
Doctors prescribe radiation and chemotherapy in abundance, not to mention plenty of optimism. However, a recent study gives us a little more hope.
This study suggested that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Lactobacillus casei might influence the immune system to prevent inflammation that can cause cancerous growths . Experts noted that this bacteria seemed to stimulate NK cells, Th1 cells, and dendritic cells that prevent cancerous cells’ growth.
Epilepsy involves seizures, which causes physical symptoms, such as uncontrollable shaking of the body. This condition can result in grave physical injuries, sometimes as critical as broken bones and muscle tears.
Sometimes epilepsy results from cases of brain tumor, stroke, or genetic defects. It is unfortunately looked down upon as a mental condition by society. Stigma is a disease in itself that continues to stain the fabric of our society. It is high time that we paved the path for acceptance and sensitivity towards these patients.
One study looked at the connection between a Ketogenic Diet and anti-seizure activity . Researchers segregated the predominant gut bacteria of children who followed a Keto Diet and experienced fewer seizures. Results found that these children had higher levels of Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides in their gut microbiome.
This nervous system disorder happens progressively and can negatively impact your lifestyle. This neurological condition can begin with small tremors in the hand. Eventually, it can evolve into full-body shakes, muscle weakness, and trouble with speech patterns.
Many people are genetically predisposed to Parkinson’s Disease. However, it can develop due to prolonged exposure to environmental toxins. A recent Caltech study also linked gut bacteria to the onset of this degenerative disease .
Researchers noted that those who have high alpha-synuclein levels in the brain tend to have high levels of this protein in the gut. Alpha-synuclein is microscopic and grows in clusters within neurons. That can ruin conversations in the mind.
So, scientists created a control experiment comparing mice with high alpha-synuclein levels in a germ-free environment to mice in a regular germ-laden world. Results found that the germ-free mice would grow to have less alpha-synuclein in the body. Now, scientists are going to work on determining just which bacteria are having this effect.
If there was a genetic brain disease as lethal as the incarnation of evil, it is Huntington’s Disease! Armed with the symptoms of ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’ Disease, Huntington’s Disease unleashes all three on the patient all at once.
Clearly, Huntington’s Disease does not shy away from topping the list of deadly neurological conditions. While other diseases attack the elderly, Huntington’s preys on the middle-aged. In fact, the odds are stacked up so high that if one of your parents is an Huntington’s Disease patient, there is an astonishing 50% chance that you will become on, too 
A recent 2020 study was the first to examine the connection between gut bacteria and Huntington’s Disease. Results found that those who have worsening symptoms of Huntington’s Disease have progressively less diverse gut microbiomes. Furthermore, they tend to have an abundance of Eubacterium halli.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Our immune systems aid us in fighting against foreign invaders. What if our own systems turned against parts of our bodies and destroyed them completely? Sounds like a nightmare? This nightmare is a reality for every ‘Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patient.
Nerve fibers are like communication cables that deliver messages correctly. When the immune system begins attacking these fibers, communication throughout the spine goes haywire. People with MS may experience double vision, muscle weakness, and chronic pain.
A meta-analysis looked at the connection between MS and the gut microbiome noting,
“Gut microbes have significant impacts on metabolism and immune and neuronal responses. As a result, the microbiota can potentially affect the onset and progression of diseases defined by several effector cells and soluble metabolic, immune, and neuroendocrine factors modulated by gut microbes .”
While there is no cure, one can seek treatment with neurologists to manage the symptoms of ‘Multiple Sclerosis’ and prevent or postpone its recurrence.
Our brain, just like every other part of the body, requires an adequate blood supply. When this requirement is not fulfilled for some reason, a person may suffer a stroke. Partial paralysis, loss of vision, and pneumonia are some of the permanent effects of stroke. However, living a healthy life is the key to avoiding stroke, thus epitomizing the saying that prevention is cure indeed.
A recent study looked at gut bacteria and strokes . Scientists assessed abnormal clusters of blood vessels along the spine in a condition known as cavernous angiomas (CA). Researchers noted that those who had CA had more gram-negative bacteria in their microbiome.
Furthermore, scientists believe that these bacteria create lipopolysaccharides (lipids and sugars) that cause the blood vessels to cluster. These results give further credence to the importance of gut bacteria and prebiotics!
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that impact a person’s mobility and posture. A person who develops cerebral palsy has trouble controlling their muscles. Their specific cerebral palsy condition is classified by the symptoms they endure.
Examples of cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy – Muscle Stiffness Impairs Movements
- Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – Have Trouble Moving Appendages
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Issues with Balance and Coordination
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy – Mixture of Multiple Cerebral Palsy Conditions
Furthermore, there are subsects of spastic and dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Many of the symptoms overlap, which can make a mixed cerebral palsy diagnosis challenging.
One study compared the gut biome of someone with this neurological disorder to those of healthy people .
Results found that those with cerebral palsy had fewer levels of the following commensal bacteria:
Interestingly enough, those with cerebral palsy can have a diverse microbiome. It’s the abundance of specific gut bacteria that might be an issue.
Those with cerebral palsy tend to have higher levels of:
- Clostridium IV
Some of these bacteria are actually beneficial for mental health, like Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium. Experts believe, “the neurodegenerative diseases were mainly attributed to Streptococcus, while an increased risk of immune system diseases was associated with enriched Akkermansia in the CPE patients.”
The idea that Streptococcus can be damaging isn’t new news. However, mental health issues are associated with Akkermansia. These findings further shine a light on all bacterial species’ pros and cons and the importance of balance.
Using Microbiome Testing for Neurological Disorders
When the most crucial organ in our body begins to malfunction, the stakes are insanely high. Life can switch from boon to bane when one’s own Alzheimer’s stricken parent begins to forget their name. As doctors continue to push boundaries seeking a cure for these diseases, let us do our part in eradicating the stigma that patients witness.
Kindness comes at no cost, and a little love and humanity could go a long way. Building a constructive and healthy recovery system for such patients is vital. It is society’s responsibility to invest in preventive and palliative care for such patients and try to reintegrate them into public life. Reaching this level of inclusiveness is what defines progress.
While microbiome testing is growing in popularity for neurologists and neurosurgeons, it’s still not intended to diagnose a neurological disorder. With the Thryve Gut Health Program, we can let you know which bacteria you have in your gut. If you’re missing pivotal bacteria or have too many of one species, there are common symptoms associated with each particular imbalance.
Our program connects the dots between the likelihood of your symptoms and the bacteria in your gut. That way, you can make dietary changes and get the correct probiotic supplements that your body requires. In turn, some of the symptoms of common neurological disorders might improve.
 “Neurological Disorders Affect Millions Globally: WHO Report.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 8 Dec. 2010, www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2007/pr04/en/.
 Weizmann Institute of Science. “Gut Microbes May Affect the Course of ALS.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 22 July 2019, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190722111923.htm.
 Harach, T., et al. “Reduction of Abeta Amyloid Pathology in APPPS1 Transgenic Mice in the Absence of Gut Microbiota.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 8 Feb. 2017, www.nature.com/articles/srep41802.
 Svoboda, Elizabeth. “Could the Gut Microbiome Be Linked to Autism?” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 29 Jan. 2020, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00198-y.
 Vivarelli, S., Salemi, R., Candido, S., Falzone, L., Santagati, M., Stefani, S., Torino, F., Banna, G. L., Tonini, G., & Libra, M. (2019). Gut Microbiota and Cancer: From Pathogenesis to Therapy. Cancers, 11(1), 38. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11010038.
 University of California – Los Angeles. “Gut Bacteria Play Key Role in Anti-Seizure Effects of Ketogenic Diet.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 24 May 2018, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524141700.htm.
 Thelightmedia.com. “New Evidence Suggests Parkinson’s Might Not Start in The Brain.” The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, 28 Nov. 2019, www.cureparkinsons.org.uk/news/parkinsons-starts-in-gut.
 Stricker-Shaver, J et al. “Genetic Rodent Models of Huntington Disease.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology vol. 1049 (2018): 29-57. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-71779-1_2.
 Kirby, T. O., & Ochoa-Repáraz, J. (2018). The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis: A Potential Therapeutic Avenue. Medical sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 69. https://doi.org/10.3390/medsci6030069.
 “Study Ties Stroke-Related Brain Blood Vessel Abnormality to Gut Bacteria.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3 June 2020, www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/study-ties-stroke-related-brain-blood-vessel-abnormality-gut-bacteria.
 Huang, Congfu et al. “Distinct Gut Microbiota Composition and Functional Category in Children With Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy.” Frontiers in pediatrics vol. 7 394. 1 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3389/fped.2019.00394.