Why the secret to stroke prevention may lie in your gut

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that scientists launched the Human Microbiome Project. And to be honest, I’m a little shocked that it ever even happened. (Especially since a complete understanding of the power of probiotics could potentially put drug companies out of business.)

But it did happen. And once again, we can all chuckle over the fact that “alternative” medicine pioneered the way to uncovering solutions to some of the most troubling diseases known to man.

We can also celebrate the fact that it blazed the trail for research like the study I want to share with you today. The results of which are incredibly fascinating — even if scientists are still puzzling over how to apply them to in practical settings.

Get this: New research shows that certain strains of gut bacteria can direct the immune system to reduce the severity of stroke. (Just as a stark reminder, stroke is the second leading cause of death in the world — and a main cause of serious, long-term disability, as well.)

So the fact that, one day, we might be able to prevent stroke just by balancing a patient’s gut bacteria? Well, I’d say that’s a pretty big deal.

But before you get too excited, fair warning — it’s just an animal study. And the scientists’ methods for achieving these results definitely raise an eyebrow. Still, this line of research could have some pretty big implications down the road. So let’s take a closer look…

As part of their study, researchers administered a combination of antibiotics to a group of mice. After two weeks, they induced ischemic stroke — the most common type, which blocks blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

They found that antibiotic-treated mice experienced less severe stroke than mice who didn’t receive the treatment — by a whopping 60 percent, in fact. All because the altered microbial environment sent more of a specific kind of immune cell to the outer covering of the brain (the meninges). And this simple change buffered the stroke’s full effects – effectively cutting damage to the brain in half.

Now, this doesn’t mean antiobiotics can prevent stroke. The scientists aren’t even sure yet which bacteria were responsible for the protective effect — and they’ll need to figure that out before any practical applications start to take shape.

But it does serve to illustrate just how close the connection between the gut and the brain really is.

As we say in the alternative medical world, your gut is your second brain. And what greater proof than evidence that simply modifying your gut flora can change the outcome of a stroke?

And not to toot my own horn yet again, but…how many years have I been telling you that your immune system is mainly housed in your gut? Here is a prime example of it in action.

This has been a guiding principle of holistic medicine for ages. And yet, these researchers are calling it a “newfound” connection — and even going so far as to say that “dietary interventions” may be able to help patients who are at risk for stroke.

Gee…you think?

But I suppose I can’t complain. At least they’re actually recognizing that diet has a profound effect on the microbiome. And better late than never, I suppose.

Nevertheless, the study authors still came up short by failing to recognize that we’re not always starting with perfect microbiomes. Far from it, in fact. There are a lot of influencing factors that can throw your microbiome off balance without you even realizing it. Including the pharmaceutical drugs and Standard American Diet we’ve all come to accept as the “norm” in this country.

Perhaps if we didn’t have those gut-ravaging factors to contend with, stroke — not to mention all the other top killers in this country — wouldn’t be the threat it currently is.

But since we do live in a world where compromised gut health is the norm, my advice remains the same. Do your gut, your brain, your immune system (and probably every other part of your body) a favor. Take a good multi-strain probiotic — like Dr, Ohhira’s — every single day.