July 21, 2022
Fermented Foods, Gut, and Cognition
By Ram Rao, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist for Apollo Health
Our gut health is the foundation of any health program, especially when it relates to brain health. The brain-gut nexus suggests these two are intricately and bi-directionally connected. In addition to supporting the optimal functioning of the gut, the gut microbiome also regulates our nutritional, immune, hormonal, and neurological systems. Stressful, sedentary, and over-sanitized lives in combination with fast foods or sugar-laden, highly processed foods, along with antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides, and other chemical exposures, have devastated the integrity of the gut and its microbiome. Researchers believe that the explosion of chronic inflammatory diseases such as IBS, obesity, diabetes, and several neurological diseases is primarily from the dysfunction of the gut microbiome. If you have any underlying issues such as leaky gut, dysbiosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or H. pylori, you will need to seek suitable interventions to optimize your gut environment and thereby your brain health.
Research studies from numerous groups focusing on microbiome research suggest that intake of probiotic-rich fermented foods is helpful for several gut-associated disease states. Probiotic foods provide Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains that repopulate the gut and keep it in an optimally functional state. While probiotic supplements appear to influence the gut microbiome short-term, eating fermented foods regularly has a positive and long-term effect on the gut.
In a recent study, researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine showed that consuming fermented foods increased microbiome diversity and decreased inflammatory proteins. The clinical trial involving 36 healthy adults was carried out to test whether microbiota-targeted food could help combat the overwhelming rise in chronic inflammatory diseases. The subjects were randomly assigned to a ten-week diet that included either fermented or high-fiber foods. The researchers analyzed blood and stool samples collected during a three-week pre-trial period, the ten weeks of the diet, and four weeks after the study when the participants reverted back to their standard diets.
The two diets resulted in different effects on the gut microbiome and the immune system. Eating fermented foods increased overall microbial diversity with stronger effects from larger servings. Four types of immune cells showed less activation in the fermented-food group, and the blood levels of 19 inflammatory proteins decreased significantly. Some of these inflammatory proteins are linked to various health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Furthermore, the results were consistent across all study participants assigned to the higher fermented food group, thus providing testimony to the importance of fermented foods for optimal gut health.
In contrast, none of the 19 inflammatory proteins decreased in participants assigned to a fiber-rich diet. The diversity of their gut microbes remained stable. Interestingly, the researchers also noted that greater fiber intake led to more carbohydrates in stool samples, suggesting incomplete fiber degradation by gut microbes. These findings are consistent with other research studies suggesting that the microbiome of people living in the industrialized world is depleted of fiber-degrading microbes, which can also result in poor gut health. While a fiber-rich diet is important and is essential for colonic and overall health, the researchers concluded that intake over a short period might not be sufficient to increase microbiota diversity and curb inflammation. The study findings provide a meaningful picture of the influence of diet on gut microbes and immune status. It also shows the ability of a specific diet to remodel the microbiota across a cohort of healthy adults, thereby providing a promising avenue for decreasing gut-associated inflammation.
The researchers plan to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which diets alter the microbiome and reduce inflammatory proteins. They also aim to test whether a long-term intake of a mixed diet (combination of high-fiber and fermented foods) will influence and be more beneficial to the microbiome and immune system of humans.
The Bredesen Protocol utilizes the KetoFLEX 12/3 approach, which is more than a diet to optimize gut health and cognition. KetoFLEX 12/3 is a lifestyle because, in addition to dietary recommendations and meal timings (a nightly minimum fast of 12 hours is included), it incorporates other lifestyle strategies, such as daily physical exercise, mental training, and sleep strategies. The KetoFLEX 12/3 nutritional plan includes a mildly ketogenic, plant-rich, highly nutritive diet that emphasizes local, organic, and seasonal non-starchy vegetables combined with an adequate amount of protein and generous amounts of healthy fat. Included in the daily meals are suggestions to incorporate fermented foods that curb gut inflammation and provide nutritional support for a healthy gut microbiome. If you’re not used to fermented foods, incorporate them slowly until you work up to 2 TBS to ½ cup per day.
As part of an overall protocol, KetoFLEX 12/3 is the only dietary approach that has been clinically demonstrated to improve cognition. In addition to a special focus on gut health, the KetoFLEX 12/3 diet utilizes multiple mechanisms to support brain health, such as increased neural fuel (via ketosis), insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, improved vascular health, and detoxification. This approach optimizes your gut health, improves cognition, and promotes optimal health.