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Can Your Gut Microbiome Affect Your Memory?

When their gut microbiome has more Lactobacillus in it, mice perform better on memory tests. Will you?

A decade ago, no one would have imagined that the bacteria in your digestive tract could in any way interact with your brain. We assumed that the brain and the belly were completely isolated. But there is growing evidence that the brain and belly communicate, thanks in part to microbes in our digestive tracts. A new study suggests that the gut microbiome can impact memory.

Lactobacillus and Memory:

A group of researchers set out to determine if they could improve the memories of mice by giving them Lactobacillus probiotics (Microbiome, April 17, 2020). 

They introduce their study this way:

“Specific members of the gut microbiome have been linked to host health and behavior. Intriguingly, probiotics comprised of different Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium strains have been shown to impact behavior in mice, including reduction of symptoms linked to anxiety and improvement of memory.”

What They Discovered:

Some mice, like some people, have very good memories. And some mice, like some people, have crappy memories. In this research, the investigators found that the mice with more Lactobacillus in their digestive tracts performed better on memory tests.

Next they gave Lactobacillus probiotics to mice that did not have bacteria in their bellies. When these germ-free mice got Lactobacillus, their memories improved.

In their own words:

“We conducted systematic genetic and microbial community profiling analyses to determine potential links between host genetics and the gut microbiome in memory. We demonstrated that members of the gut microbiome, specifically different Lactobacillus species, play a role in improving memory in mice.”

What Is It About Lactobacillus Probiotics?

Is there an explanation for why probiotics containing Lactobacillus might be beneficial for memory? The authors realized that Lactobacillus strains produce lactate. It is essential for learning and memory. When they gave mice with poor memories lactate, their performance improved.

The Take-Home Message:

The scientists believe that Lactobacillus in the diet can lead to the production of lactate in the colon. Extra lactate in the digestive tract gets into the blood stream and “migrates through the blood to the brain.”

The authors conclude:

“One potential outcome of this research is the support of use of probiotic Lactobacillus strains to promote memory through their production of lactate and through their promotion of GABA accumulation in the hippocampus, although it remains to translate these findings from mice to humans.”

Will Lactobacillus improve memory for people? That is the big question. At this point it is too early to tell. On the other hand, probiotics are benign. If taking a probiotic formula with lots of Lactobacillus might help and won’t hurt, it may be worth a try.

Have you been looking for a quality probiotic with Lactobacillus? You might consider KayaBiotics. The company underwrites our radio show. We like these products made in Germany, because there is strict oversight of supplement manufacturers and compliance with good manufacturing practice. All of the ingredients are organic. If you use the discount code PEOPLE, you can take $10 off the price of your purchase.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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