If you’ve read that bacteria in our guts influence our moods and have wondered how that works, here’s a new clue towards solving this piece of the recently enlivened mind/body axis puzzle.
THE NEUROTRANSMITTERS GABA & GLUTAMATE
The amino acid called GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) is the principal INHIBITORY neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system, sending chemical messages through the brain and nervous system and helping regulate communication between brain cells.
GABA’s chief role is to reduce the activity of nerve cells. It plays an important role in behavior, cognition, and how we respond to stress. Research suggests that GABA helps control fear and anxiety when neurons become overexcited. Below normal GABA levels in the brain have been linked to depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and schizophrenia.
Pharmaceuticals called benzodiazepines bind to the same receptors as GABA, mimicking GABA’s natural calming effects. Examples of popular benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia are Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam). They slow down the body’s central nervous system and cause sleepiness. (Konkel, 2015)
Glutamate (also called L-glutamate or glutamic acid)) is another important amino acid neurotransmitter released by nerve cells in the brain. It is involved in most aspects of normal brain functioning, including cognition, memory and learning. It is the major mediator of EXCITATORY signals in the mammalian central nervous system. (Danbolt, 2001)
GABA & GLUTAMATE IN BALANCE
Calming GAMBA restrains the release of excitatory glutamate. So you can see that a balance between GABA and glutamate production is needed for proper functioning. It’s a Goldilocks situation: The brain needs to release just the right amount of both GABA and glutamate. Too much or too little of one or the other causes problems.
IT TURNS OUT THAT A TYPE OF BACTERIA IN THE GUT LIVES ON GABA
Researchers have now observed gut bacteria consuming the brain chemical GABA. They found that a type of recently discovered gut bacteria, called KLE1738, can survive and reproduce only if it has GABA molecules to feed on. The researchers tried providing KLE1738 with other types of neurotransmitters but the bacteria couldn’t survive on anything but GABA. Without GABA, these bacteria die.
This is an important clue about how our gut bacteria influence our mood. “GABA acts by inhibiting signals from nerve cells, calming down the activity of the brain, so it’s surprising to learn that a gut bacterium needs it to grow and reproduce. Having abnormally low levels of GABA is linked to depression and mood disorders, and this finding adds to growing evidence that our gut bacteria may affect our brains.” (Coghlan, 2016)
An earlier experiment, in 2011, demonstrated that a different type of gut bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, dramatically altered GABA activity in the brains of mice as well as affected how well they responded to stress.
When the researchers surgically removed the vagus nerve, the communication pathway between the gut and the brain, the effect on the mice disappeared – more evidence on how gut bacteria influence the brain. (Coghlan, 2016)
The research team, led by Philip Strandwitz at Northeastern University in Boston, is now searching for other gut bacteria that consume or even produce GABA. They plan to test their effect on the brains and behavior of animals. Such work may eventually lead to new treatments for mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
“Due to this unique growth requirement, we provisionally name KLE1738 Evtepia gabavorous. Using growth of E. gabalyticus as an indicator, we then identified novel GABA producing bacteria from the gut microbiome. Reduced levels of GABA are associated with depression, and we found fewer GABA producers in a human cohort of depressed individuals. By modulating the level of GABA, microbial producers and consumers of this neurotransmitter may be influencing host behavior.” (Strandwitz et al, 2016)
Researchers are just at the beginning of looking into the many ways the gut microbiome influences, if not regulates, many bodily processes and how unbalance in the gut microbiome eventually leads to poor health.
This finding of a dependence of a type of gut bacteria on the neurotransmitter GABA doesn’t mean you should start yourself on one of the GABA supplements you’ll find for sale online. But do stay tuned! Neurotransmitters and specific microbes may become the treatment of choice for mood disorders – or, even better, for preventing mood disorders in the first place.
Keep your gut microbiome health, keep your body healthy.
Danbolt, N.C. (2001). Glutamate as a Neurotransmitter – An overview. Center for Molecular Biology & Neuroscience, The Neurotransporter Group – Dynamics of extracellular transmitter amino acids. See: http://neurotransporter.org/glutamate.html
109. Sugar can slow down the ability of the adrenal glands to function.
110. Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.
111.. IVs (intravenous feedings) of sugar water can cut off oxygen to the brain.
112. High sucrose intake could be an important risk factor in lung cancer.
113. Sugar increases the risk of polio.
114. High sugar intake can cause epileptic seizures.
115. Sugar causes high blood pressure in obese people.
116. In Intensive Care Units, limiting sugar saves lives.
117. Sugar may induce cell death.
118. Sugar can increase the amount of food that you eat.
119. In juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a 44% drop in antisocial behavior.
120. Sugar can lead to prostate cancer.
121. Sugar dehydrates newborns.
122. Sugar increases the estradiol in young men.
123. Sugar can cause low birth weight babies.
124. Greater consumption of refined sugar is associated with a worse outcome of schizophrenia
125. Sugar can raise homocysteine levels in the blood stream.
126. Sweet food items increase the risk of breast cancer.
127. Sugar is a risk factor in cancer of the small intestine.
128. Sugar may cause laryngeal cancer.
129. Sugar induces salt and water retention.
130. Sugar may contribute to mild memory loss.
131. As sugar increases in the diet of 10 years olds, there is a linear decrease in the intake of many essential nutrients.
132. Sugar can increase the total amount of food consumed.
133. Exposing a newborn to sugar results in a heightened preference for sucrose relative to water at 6 months and 2 years of age.
134. Sugar causes constipation.
135. Sugar causes varicose veins.
136. Sugar can cause brain decay in prediabetic and diabetic women.
137. Sugar can increase the risk of stomach cancer.
138. Sugar can cause metabolic syndrome.
139. Sugar ingestion by pregnant women increases neural tube defects in embryos.
140. Sugar can be a factor in asthma.
141. The higher the sugar consumption the more chances of getting irritable bowel syndrome.
142. Sugar could affect central reward systems.
143. Sugar can cause cancer of the rectum.
144. Sugar can cause endometrial cancer.
145. Sugar can cause renal (kidney) cell carcinoma.
146. Sugar can cause liver tumors.
Many thanks to Dr Beth Forgosh, of Discover Chiropractic of Soho, for bringing Dr Appleton’s list to my attention.
Note added to this post on 12/29/2014:
Suzette Lawrence, MSN, commented that Dr Appleton’s list, above, describes the effects of REFINED sugars:
“This is not the case for natural fruits sugars that are attached to the fiber in the fruit, known as levulose … if absorbed it occurs low in the intestines and is converted to glycogen in the liver and stored there as an emergency energy source. I agree that the SAD (Standard American Diet) beginning in infancy sets the stage for every disease, and some new ones. Think, GMO beet sugar … ”
Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and your overall health depends on the type of sugar you’re eating, either natural or refined.
We wanted to explore the difference between these sugar types as a follow-up to our post about whether sugar drives the growth of cancer, which has received several comments. We again turned to Julie Baker, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at our hospital outside Atlanta, for her expertise on the issue.
Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. Foods with natural sugar have an important role in the diet of cancer patients and anyone trying to prevent cancer because they provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease.
Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. It is typically found as sucrose, which is the combination of glucose and fructose. We use white and brown sugars to sweeten cakes and cookies, coffee, cereal and even fruit. Food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to foods and beverages, including crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Low-fat foods are the worst offenders, as manufacturers use sugar to add flavor.
Most of the processed foods we eat add calories and sugar with little nutritional value. In contrast, fruit and unsweetened milk have vitamins and minerals. Milk also has protein and fruit has fiber, both of which keep you feeling full longer.
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It tells the stories of how two groups of mothers, Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, discovered that the serious health problems their children suffered from were linked to exposure to the chemical glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
When these moms had their sick children and the rest of their families’ glyphosate levels checked, the tests revealed high, unsafe levels in their children’s urine, in the families’ drinking water, and in the mothers’ breast milk.
This turned them into activists who are now taking action to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world.
The stories of their children’s suffering from entirely preventable illnesses are heart breaking – their stories of how they brought their children back to health by removing all GMOs from their diets are inspiring.
I’m also reprinting the article here because it contains links to the plentiful scientific research findings that demonstrate the serious harm being done to humans, animals and the environment by glyphosate. I’ve added a Source list after the article.
Glyphosate is the active chemical in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on crops grown from its Roundup Ready seeds. Roundup Ready seeds have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate – allowing farmers to douse their crops with Roundup herbicide without killing the crops themselves.
Since Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1975, it has become the best-selling herbicide in the world. Its prolific use has led to the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds – inducing farmers to spray ever heavier amounts of Roundup on their crops.
Note: I’ve added a list of sources to the bottom of the original article.
The Organic Consumers Association’s article:
Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup By Alexis Baden-Mayer Organic Consumers Association, May 29, 2014
Now is the time to do it, they say, because the EPA is conducting a registration review of glyphosate.
Representatives of the two groups contacted the EPA to request a meeting. When the EPA ignored them, they rallied supporters. In just three days, about 10,000 moms from all over the country rang the phones off the hook at the EPA.
A week later, five Moms Across America leaders were sitting around a boardroom table with nine EPA employees who have the power to recall Roundup. The moms brought lawyers, scientists and advocates from Organic Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, Beyond Pesticides and the Truth-In-Labeling Coalition as back-up.
What was supposed to be a one-hour meeting turned into two. The EPA’s Dana Vogel, director of the Health Effects Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs, and other EPA staff stayed glued to their seats as one mother after another shared heart-wrenching stories of parenting children with life-threatening allergies, severe gastrointestinal problems, mysterious autism-spectrum disorders, and major nutritional deficiencies.
The common thread in those stories? Exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Wrenching tales of preventable illnesses
The activist moms had long suspected pesticides might be behind their children’s health problems. So they had their families tested for glyphosate. The tests showed unsafe levels of glyphosate in their drinking water, in their breast milk and in their children’s urine.
That’s when they resolved to get in front of the EPA. And when they did, they told their stories.
Moms Across America co-founder Zen Honeycutt recounted how when she learned of the link between glyphosate and autism, she had her middle child, who had been exhibiting autism symptoms, tested for glyphosate. His urine had 8.7 parts per billion glyphosate—eight times more than is allowed in drinking water in the E.U. She immediately eliminated all potential sources of glyphosate from his diet. After six weeks, the glyphosate was out of his system. And so were the autism symptoms. He stopped hitting people, and his grades went back up from D’s to A’s.
After a year of eating organic, her eldest son’s walnut allergy went from a 19 to a 0.2. It’s no longer life-threatening.
In fact, all of the mothers’ children suffered from deteriorating conditions until they put them on all-organic diets. When they figured out that going organic was the only thing that helped ease their children’s symptoms, they started investigating the food they had been eating for possible causes of their children’s poor health.
Each mother began to suspect glyphosate.
Zoe Swartz, leader of East Coast Moms Across America and founder of GMO Free Lancaster County told the EPA, “I’m really angry that I didn’t know that there was glyphosate in the food I was feeding my daughter.” She described her toddler’s problems with “leaky gut syndrome” which has been linked to glyphosate exposure. After three weeks of an organic diet, the child’s symptoms began to disappear.
Megan Davenhall of Thinking Moms Revolution, mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism, told the EPA, “It’s going to be a long road for us.”
She began her research when her son was diagnosed at age three. As she turned to organic foods, and eliminated chemicals, he started to grow—something he hadn’t done for two and a half years. He weighed only 38 pounds at age six. Now, Davenhall told the EPA, “He’s doing better. He’s not off the spectrum. … It’s a long road for us, because my son was so very damaged. … He was skin and bones and it’s taken us years to recover his gut health.”
“The damage didn’t need to happen to him,” Davenhall said. “And I don’t want to see it happen to one other kid out there, not one. What we feed our kids, what we put into our bodies, is the most important thing. Healthy food should be available for everybody. It needs to happen. It needs to happen today.”
Sarah Cusack of Thriving Family Health talked about her daughter Claire who at 12 months, changed from a happy, easy-going baby to a miserable, constipated baby who was literally starving. She was emaciated. She had a huge bloated belly. At 20 months, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. But the turning point came when she switched to an organic diet. Claire is now a healthy six-year-old. Her mom is a health coach. Cusack says that an all-organic diet is the centerpiece of her practice. She’s seen improvement in clients with myriad health problems, including migraines, eczema, rashes, gastro-intestinal conditions, mood disorders like anxiety and depression, constipation and auto-immune conditions.
Swaying decision-makers with Science
After the testimonials, It was time to hit the EPA with hard science.
Honeycutt delivered a 20-minute presentation on how glyphosate figures as an environmental cause of so many of the diseases impacting our kids today. She left behind a binder, prepared by Moms Across America volunteers, packed with scientific articles supporting her assertions. Zen’s presentation and the materials she presented to the EPA covered the following points.
• Exposure to glyphosate correlates with chronic illness. Chronically ill people have significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their systems than healthy people.
• Glyphosate makes vaccines far more toxic than they would otherwise be. When children are overexposed to glyphosate, they are more likely to react badly to vaccination. There’s an intricate connection between the gut and the brain, such that an unhealthy digestive system translates into pathologies in the brain. Aluminum, mercury and glyphosate work synergistically to create severe deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain. This may be what’s causing the epidemic levels of autism and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Will the EPA consider this evidence and move to protect our children from glyphosate?
We’re about to find out.
For five years, the EPA has been collecting and analyzing data. This year (2014), the agency will publish a risk assessment and open a 60-day public comment period. Then it will publish a proposed registration and provide another opportunity for public comments.
Finally, the EPA will make a registration decision to either continue business-as-usual, place new restrictions on the use of glyphosate, or to take it off the market.
Moms want it off the market.
Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution are currently working with the EPA to develop protocols for an independent scientific study of glyphosate in breast milk for inclusion in the agency’s review.
Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association.For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website.Organic Consumers Association · 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603 ·
Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652 ·
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Glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter: Gastnier, C. et al. (2009). Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology, 2009, 262:3, 184-91. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19539684
cause breast cancer: Thongprakaisang S. et al. (2013). Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food & Chemical Toxicology, 2013, 59, 129-36. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170
chickens: Shehata. A. A. et al. (2013). The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Current Microbiology, 2013 66:4, 350-8. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23224412
Crohn’s disease: Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy, 2013, 15:4), 1416-1463. See: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
exposure to glyphosate doubled the likelihood of contracting B cell lymphoma: Schinasi, L. & Leon, M.E. (2014). Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2014, 11:4, 4449-527. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24762670