Could Bad Gut Health Be Causing These Common Health Issues?
We get the expert low-down on why good gut health is key to treating immunity and mental health issues and increasing life expectancy...
Did you know that fixing the condition of your gut health could be the answer to treating common ailments including low immunity, anxiety and atopic dermatitis in infants? Dr Peter French a cell and molecular biologist and Chief Scientist for the Australian company Bioxyne, has been working on the connection between the microbiome and immune health since 2002. In this detailed Q&A, Dr French, explains the importance of maintaining gut health, how gut bacteria affects the immune system and mental health and also discusses how a powerful new strain of probiotics products containing a probiotic bacteria strain called Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 (now available in Australia) is proving successful in the management of these common conditions.
How does gut health affect overall health?
The human intestinal tract is colonized by trillions of bacteria, the composition of which is known to be critical for normal functioning of the healthy gut. When the good gut bacteria are outnumbered by the bad, a range of gut problems can occur. This imbalance causes damage to the mucosal layer of the GI tract; the normally smooth intact mucosal layer becomes permeable, disrupting normal gut function and allowing proteins, toxins and other molecules to enter the blood stream, which can have far reaching consequences on other organs of our body beyond the gut. The composition of the gut microbiome is therefore critical to health.
What are some common conditions that people don't realise might be caused by poor gut health?
Diseases and conditions such as obesity, liver and kidney disease, immune disorders, early Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and even anxiety and mental health issues can be affected by our gut bacteria. There is also recent evidence that a healthy gut microbiome is associated with a longer life expectancy.
Why and in what ways does bad gut health contribute to anxiety and mental health issues?
Recent studies reveal the importance of gut microbiota to the function of the CNS (Central Nervous System).
Bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut has long been recognized. Established pathways of communication include the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the enteric nervous system (ENS), the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system. There is strong evidence from animal studies that gut microorganisms can activate the vagus nerve which extends from the colon to the brain, and play a critical role in mediating effects on the brain and behaviour.
It has been demonstrated that gastrointestinal infection with bad bacteria with or without gut inflammation increases anxiety-like behavior in animals. One study showed that exposure to a subpathogenic infection of a pathogen (C. jejuni) in the GI tract of mice increased anxiety-like behaviour 2 days after infection. Two additional studies with C. rodentium and C. jejuni showed increased anxiety-like behaviour 8 hours post-infection, although there was no difference in plasma cytokine levels or intestinal inflammation compared with control mice. These studies show that the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the GI tract, even in the absence of a systemic immune response, can increase anxiety-like behaviour. In infection experiments that do result in increased GI inflammation, there are also notable increases in anxiety-like behaviour.
Are there any signs to be aware of that suggest bad gut health is contributing to a person's anxiety issues?
Half of IBS sufferers also have difficulties with depression or anxiety. Researchers are now considering that pathogenic gut bacteria are responsible for the mood symptoms in IBS, as well as the gastrointestinal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
How can taking a probiotic, especially one with PCC help to alleviate feelings of anxiety and low moods?
It appears well accepted that probiotics can attenuate anxiety and depressive-like behaviours in experimental animal models. Treatment with probiotics can normalize anxiety-like behavior in infected mice. In a well-established mouse model of colitis (GI inflammatory disease), animals treated with dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) show GI inflammation and increased anxiety-like behavior; however, mice pretreated with DSS showed a reduction of anxiety-like symptoms after treatment with a probiotic.
There are also some clinical studies that suggest that probiotics may mitigate anxiety symptoms. Presumably they do this by combatting bad bacteria and reducing the burden of toxins and other immune suppressants as a result. PCC® has been shown to be effective at inhibiting a range of pathogenic bacteria in the laboratory, and to boost immune and gut health in clinical studies. Given the clear connection between the gut and the brain, PCC® is likely to have a positive effect on the function of both.
What specific things should they eliminate from their diet / lifestyle?
Antibiotics, processed foods, high sugar foods, stress.
What are some of the health advantages of taking a probiotic that contains ‘PCC®’?
An effective way to maintain and improve our health and wellbeing is to take clinically proven good bacteria – probiotics combined with a good diet. Recently Bioxyne Limited, an Australian company has launched products that contain PCC® - a probiotic that has been demonstrated in Australian studies to boost immunity and improve gut function, and general health and wellbeing. PCC® has been studied in several clinical trials in Australia and has been shown to be effective at improving gut health, boosting the immune system, reducing the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms and to relieve the symptoms of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (eczema) in infants.
What other steps can people with digestion issues take to encourage good gut health?
Good gut health is promoted through consumption of healthy food – high in fibre, low in sugar and fat, supplementing the diet with clinically proven probiotics like PCC®, reducing stress and undertaking regular moderate exercise.
What sort of things impact gut microbiome?
The healthy balance of the gut microbiome can be disrupted by a range of factors – antibiotics and other medications; poor diet, especially one high in processed foods or low in fibre; stress and disease.
Why do you think ‘PCC®’ has been so effective in treating skin conditions in children?
We know that PCC® can survive passage through the stomach and can colonise the gastrointestinal tract, which is vital for an effective probiotic. Researchers at the Institute for Child Health in Perth, WA, showed that the infants who consumed PCC® had an increased Th1 response, indicating that the PCC® had an effect on balancing the infant’s immune system, thus reducing the infants’ over-stimulate immune response which causes the eczema reaction.
What makes ‘PCC®’ more effective than better known probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus
Superior survival in acid and bile; demonstrated colonization of the intestinal tract; demonstrated clinical efficacy in humans. Many Lactobacillus acidophilus strains have no proven studies – and not all strains are effective. PCC®is a specific strain of Lactobacillus fermentum that has clinically demonstrated benefits.
How long does it take to see an improvement in your body once taking Bioxyne’s PCC® products? How long should someone continue taking them for once the condition improves? Or should it be an ongoing practice?
This depends upon the person’s heath, age and condition. Benefits on the immune system can be seen within a few days. Gut health can be seen with 2-6 weeks. It is a good idea to take up to 6 capsules per day until the condition improves then go onto a maintenance dose of 1 capsule per day, every day.