Stress and How It Impacts Your Gut Microbiome

Stress and How It Impacts Your Gut Microbiome Might Surprise You:

Gut and Brain Health: Learning from Lifestyle Medicine Conference 2018. Part 1.

We’ve all been stressed right?

Be it at work, juggling family commitments, pressing deadlines or trying to get life done. There is a large body of evidence supporting how our bodies are not designed to meet the challenges of the modern environment: multitasking, competing deadlines, technology use, abnormal light, noise exposures for example. 

Stress, has long lived in the professional treatment domain of psychology but the growing research base of exercise, diet, rest, sleep are proving to be also part of the treatment equation. You could consider this “lifestyle treatments” and this forming the basis of a rapidly growing field of work under the banner of Lifestyle Medicine.

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

In practical terms, Lifestyle Medicine bridges the gap between health promotion and clinical practice with a multidisciplinary, whole system approach to the chronic and lifestyle-related disease problem.

Lifestyle Medicine is a broad church of health professionals from GPs and medical specialists, allied health practitioners, public health physicians, educators, and researchers with a growing international association footprint.

Supporting the message and clinical utility of Lifestyle Medicine in Australia is The Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM) which held its national 2018 conference in my home town of Brisbane.

You might make an assessment of a conference’s success by way of

  • Quality of presentations
  • The depth of research
  • The enthusiasm of the community for which it serves
  • A sense of value for money, as the cost in attending any conference can be a massive hand brake
  • and ultimately if it connected at a practical level with the diverse audiences’ needs

As most conferences come and go, you can leave wondering whether you should have come or not. Well in my humble opinion, ASLM’s Lifestyle Medicine Conference 2018 was an absolute stellar event with high quality presentations, depth of research and a vigorous community mobilising the message of low cost, highly effective lifestyle interventions.

Here’s Two Presentations Snap Shots Regarding Gut and Brain Health and Performance

Prof Zoltan Sarnayai, Psychoneuroendocrinology discussed research into the microbiome and stress. Prof. Zoltan discussed how with chronic stress you observe structural changes in the brain’s neuro-structure

  • Amygdala (plays a role in emotional regulation)
  • Hippocampus (plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory that enables navigation)
  • Pre- frontal cortex ( brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour)

Furthermore, wiping out the gut flora in mice demonstrated neuro-biological changes

  • Hyper- myelination of the prefrontal cortex is observed
  • Hippocampus doesn’t function properly- impaired performance with short dendritic spines and connections
  • Amygdala: The opposite occurs. With the Hippocampus structurally impaired its ability to influence the Amygdala is reduced and therefore the amygdala is hyperactive stimulating an abnormally high stress response activity
  • What to do – intervention includes Prebiotics, Probiotics, Diet (high fibre), FMT

Prof. Felise Jacka from the Food and Mood Centre

  • Brain injury has an impact on the gut flora
  • Biological dysregulation associated with depression: inflammation, metabolic, HPA axis changes, and neurotransmitter / neuropeptide changes- each part modified by the gut microbiota
  • Provided insights into the gut brain relationship in various mental health presentation. Was firm in an opinion about the first 12months of life as critical for micro-biome development

In Summary

  • Take care of your gut bugs, be mindful of antibiotics not just medicinally but also in the food change as Prof Felise pointed out Australia has the highest use of ABs in the world.
  • Eat a diet rich in whole foods with fibre to support your gut bug health.
  • Should you need diet therapy seek out a qualified nutritionist and dietician to guide your meal plan development
  • There is a growing evidence how the gut bugs influence your brain health

In short, there was a strong research focus and importantly how to translate this into clinical and population interventions. The work of both Prof Felise and Prof. Zoltan assists in converting lab to field and also provides more light onto the subject of how the gut and brain are connected.

I had the pleasure to present on Day 3 to provide a case study observation of working with a client with cognitive decline, more on that soon.

So, stay tuned for more summaries of ASLM Lifestyle Medicine 2018 Conference in coming posts. .

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