Treating Alzheimer’s with Fecal Material
In 2015, I published Brain Maker, a book that explored the remarkable, but generally overlooked relationship between the gut and the brain. These days, this relationship gets a lot of attention in both popular and scientific literature, and with good reason. But I can assure you, when I began discussing how the gut microbes powerfully influence not only the health of the brain, but also its ability to function, lots of eyebrows were raised.
What prompted me to explore this fascinating relationship were several factors. First, it was virgin territory, for the most part. I found this to be intriguing. Second, it connected a lot of dots – explaining why diet, for example, could influence the brain so dramatically. And third, it was my hope that this area of research might provide new inroads as it related to therapy, again, focused on the brain.
In the ensuing years since Brain Maker made its mark, the influence of our gut microbes on brain health has been explored at a level I would not have predicted. Many researchers have discovered that various brain issues from autism to depression demonstrate characteristic changes in the array and metabolic functionality of the various gut organisms. And this observation even extends to Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, we now see some fairly characteristic gut microbial changes in this disease entity – a disease affecting more than 6 million Americans for which there is no meaningful pharmaceutical treatment.
Our gut bacteria are involved in a host of activities that impact the brain. These include playing a central role in regulating inflammation, insulin sensitivity, various neurotransmitters and an array of cell signaling molecules. And this underpinning supports the notion that it is in our interest to think about how our day-to-day lifestyle choices influence our gut bacteria. The foods we choose, for example, should include lots of good fiber, the primary supportive fuel for the gut microbes. Their diversity and function are also influenced by things like exercise, sleep, stress, medications, and even the quality of water we consume.
These lifestyle choices influence the brain in other ways, but validating them through the lens of their impact on the microbiome lends further support to their value.
A new research paper takes what may be considered to be an outlier position as it relates to harnessing the influence of the microbiome on the brain in a disease state. The study is entitled: Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) Role in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review, and as the name suggests, it is an evaluation of the efficacy of instilling fecal contents, including bacteria, from a healthy person into the colon of an Alzheimer’s patient to determine if the induced change in the bacterial complexion could have any positive effects as it relates to the compromised brain function that typifies this disease.
The authors included 13 studies upon which they based their conclusions. And their findings revealed that fecal microbial transfer was associated with improvement in Alzheimer’s symptoms of mood, memory, and cognition.
As they stated in their conclusion:
“FMT can potentially become one of the modalities in treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD), exerting its effect through the microbiota-gut-brain axis. The diversity of the gut microbiota in AD patients is widely changed compared with the healthy population as the types of bacteria abundant in healthy people differ from those in AD patients. This is speculated to participate in AD pathophysiology because the original gut bacteria metabolize peptides, soluble fibers, and dietary proteins, bringing out short chain fatty acids and tryptophan along with other metabolites. These products work to lessen gut inflammation along with blood-brain barrier permeability.”
Let’s be clear. I am not suggesting that we should jump right in and start using fecal transplantation as an Alzheimer’s treatment. My reason for presenting this information is simply to reveal what might be considered to represent the extreme in terms of leveraging our knowledge as it relates to the microbiome, and also, to lend support to the recommendation that we need to take care of the trillions of organisms living within us. In a very real sense, charting your brain’s destiny includes paying deep attention to how you nurture your symbiotic bacterial guests.
And over the past decade I have created extensive content on DrPerlmutter.com to give you the tools to help you make this happen. It’s all there, so take a look. Your brain will thank you.