Gut well soon originally started life as a cheerleader for traditional fermented products such as kefir and sauerkraut. Simple fermented foods, easy to make at home, with a long association to health and wellbeing. Over time we have edged a lot closer to the wider discussion about the human microbiome more generally. Exactly why do fermented foods, containing large amounts of helpful bacteria, appear to boost human health quite so dramatically?
As part of this growing understanding, I want to highlight and link to a new scientific study that suggests a potential relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. There is not yet sufficient evidence to claim that the oral microbiome has a causal role in dementia1, but this paper offers more support for the notion that our bacterial populations (good and bad) have a crucial role in our physical and mental health.
The general idea that many of our most challenging health problems can be mediated by the bacteria we carry in and on our bodies is still highly controversial. Not least because our healthcare systems are often based on a treatment rather than prevention paradigm. If some of these treatments, such as antibiotics, can cause other problems in the short and long term what then? It is estimated that lifestyle choices (including diet), are connected to 80% of health problems seen by GPs in the NHS. And yet UK medical schools offer almost no nutritional education to their students. It can be argued that our doctors have been taught for decades, to engage with treatment opportunities rather than prevention strategies.
Returning to the cited study discussed in New Scientist. It has been hypothesised that a gum disease bacterium (Porphyromonas gingivalis), may get into the brain and cause inflammation which could be a factor in neurodegeneration. People with Alzheimer’s dementia tend to have higher levels of this bacterium in their brains. A company has created an oral medicine that is intended to block the activity of the toxins established by the bacterium. An initial small trial has seen some positive preliminary results.
A second question arising from this new approach to Alzheimer’s dementia is what lifestyle and dietary choices are likely to improve the mouth microbiome and reduce harmful bacteria that attack the gums?