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Digestive Health and Wellness

The Brain Benefits of Adding Prebiotic Fiber to Your Diet

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New research out of Japan found that dementia patients had different gut microbes than dementia-free adults. Currently, 50 million people have dementia and other brain disorders, and almost 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year.

The gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes living in the walls of our intestinal tract — may help the body and the brain function better.

“In many ways the old adage, ‘you are what you eat’ holds true,” says gastroenterologist Dr. F. Wilson Jackson, medical director for Prebiotin, maker of all-natural, plant-based, full-spectrum prebiotic fiber supplements. “Our intestinal tract contains its own nervous system that links to the central nervous system in the brain.”

Prebiotin’s proprietary formula contains active ingredient oligofructose-enriched inulin (OEI), a dedicated combination of longer and shorter chain inulin, a chicory root derivative.

Healthy gut, better brain function

Nerve cells line our gut and nerve cells work in the brain. Bacteria release chemicals that stimulate these nerve cells to send signals back and forth to the brain through the vagus nerve, a major nerve pathway between the gut and brain.

“There’s this natural gut brain connection,” says author and dietitian, Diane Welland, a consultant for Prebiotin, who knows it’s important for gut bacteria and other microbes to remain balanced and healthy.

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“Because the gut has so many nerves in the digestive system that send signals back and forth to the brain — the gut operates as a ‘second brain,’” she says.

The gut and cognition

Research about the link between gut health and disease conditions has exploded.

“Emerging evidence suggests that gut bacteria may be linked to brain health and cognitive function,” says Deanna L. Kelly, Pharm.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Treatment Research Program at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Understanding this link and the mechanism underlying the connection could lead to new treatments like supplementing with prebiotic fiber to support healthy brain function.”

Dr. Kelly, who studies schizophrenia and cognition, says this may be accomplished by “modifying the bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome and could be significant for schizophrenia, dementia, and other disorders with cognitive impairments.” 

In a pilot clinical trial, she and her colleagues gave patients with schizophrenia two weeks of prebiotic in an in-patient setting where everyone had the same diet and supplements. From the start to the end, patients’ levels of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid which may improve inflammation, were found to increase.

Due to these promising findings, Dr. Kelly, and her team at MPRC have more research underway. She says increased butyrate levels could potentially improve cognition function in people with schizophrenia and other patients with cognitive issues like those with dementia.

Beneficial bacteria

“Prebiotics are a way to enliven the intestinal contents to better align with intestinal function,” says Dr. Jackson, whose father is Prebiotin’s founder, Dr. Frank W. Jackson.

While consumers are advised to eat 25 grams of fiber a day, most eat much less. Taking a supplement like Prebiotin Prebiotic® Fiber has been shown to nourish beneficial bacteria so they multiply and eventually crowd out the bad bacteria.

While the link between gut health and our brain is still being explored, we now know that we can make a difference in our mental health — and keep our cognitive abilities sharp — by taking steps to improve our gut health.

Prebiotin, one of the most researched prebiotic fibers, has participated in numerous National Institutes of Health and other peer-reviewed studies. For a list of Prebiotin and other inulin-related research, check out https://www.prebiotin.com.

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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