At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst presented their recent study that concluded that frequency of bowel movements and relative health of the gut microbiome are linked to cognitive function. Researchers included more than 112,000 individuals and found that those with gut issues, specifically, chronic constipation, experienced decreased cognitive function equivalent to three years of aging, as opposed to people who had daily bowel movements.
This study adds to the growing body of knowledge regarding the gut-brain connection. The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference wrote that,” Two additional studies define specific gut bacteria that are associated with increased dementia risk, as well as gut bacteria that may be neuroprotective. Previous research has connected the health and makeup of the gut microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts, with a number of other vital body functions.”
Alzheimer’s expert, Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president of medical and scientific relations, commented on the interdependence of gut and brain. “Our body systems are all interconnected. When one system is malfunctioning, it impacts other systems. When that dysfunction isn’t addressed, it can create a waterfall of consequences for the rest of the body,” she said.
Senior study investigator Dong Wang, MD, ScD, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, commented on interventions for improving gut health, which include:
- Adopt healthy diets
- Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Take fiber supplements
- Drink plenty of water every day
- Engage in regular physical activity