Ranjan Sinha

February 03, 2019

How Exercise and Gut Biome Nurture Your Brain?

Piano lessons, math puzzles, scrabble - meditation, psychotherapy, and random acts of kindness - all of these are touted, some legitimately (others less so) as ways of maintaining brain health. However, one of the most dramatic benefits of exercise is seldom touted: it keeps your brain healthy. The most effective way to take care of your brain is to a) exercise to stay fit and b) eat based on your unique DNA and gut biome.

There's compelling evidence indicating that complex brains evolved primarily to help move our bodies. In turn, regular physical fitness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and focus, and enhance learning.

Learning new concepts requires the neurons in the brain to form new neural connections. A protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is critical to new network formation. Even 20-40 daily minutes of aerobic exercise triggers a cascade of events that ends up stimulating BDNF production by 30% or more. Other studies correlate fitness with higher test scores in children and high impact running with improved cognition.

Furthermore, most choices we make revolve around our brain's reward system: if we're hungry and eat, we feel satiated; if we're tired and sleep, we feel rested. Satiety, restfulness - all of these are manifestations of neural "rewards." Chemically, the feeling of "satisfaction" translates to neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin binding to their receptors in the brain.

Many common psychiatric drugs actually mimic dopamine and serotonin to improve mood and focus. Jogging three times a day for 30 minutes has been shown as effective at alleviating depressive symptoms as is the antidepressant medication Zoloft.

While optimal amount of exercise can promote chemicals that trigger the rewarding effects in our brain, over-working-out can trigger stress response that can tamp down on parts of the reward system and cause inflammation that make us feel worse.

The "optimal" amount of exercise is determined by your DNA and the amount of neurotransmitters produced with exercise is determined by your genes and gut biome.

Everyone responds differently to exercise. Some lose weight through exercise, while other struggle. 3TandAi’s DNA + Gut Biome report helps you and your healthcare professional understand how your body will respond to exercise - to reduce weight, enhance insulin sensitivity or its impact in elevating good cholesterol ( HDL).

Image by Digbi Health

3tandAi fitness report analyzes your DNA and recommends your exercise threshold and how your body responds to exercise.

The hormone cortisol is naturally produced by our bodies in response to stressful situations. Long-term stress is associated with elevated cortisol levels. Simply exercising in the morning can dial down your cortisol and improve your brain's stress response.

Beyond exercise, the food we eat plays a critical component in our brain health and function. Many neurotransmitters are not synthesized directly by our bodies, but instead by the naturally occurring bacteria in our gut (our gut microbiome). In fact, 90% of the serotonin in your body is manufactured by the bacteria in your gut.

3TandAi Personalized Health report analyzes the abundance of Serotonin producing bacteria, recommend food and fitness path to increase these “good bacteria” to help you reduce anxiety and improve quality of sleep.

Image by Digbi Health

Stay Informed. Stay Healthy.


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  2. Heijer, et al. "Sweat it out? The effects of physical exercise on cognition and behavior in children and adults with ADHD: a systematic literature review." J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2017; 124(Suppl 1): 3–26.
  3. Winter, et al. "High impact running improves learning." Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2007 May;87(4):597-609. Epub 2006 Dec 20.
  4. Schmolesky, et al. "The Effects of Aerobic Exercise Intensity and Duration on Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Healthy Men." J Sports Sci Med. 2013 Sep; 12(3): 502–511.
  5. Seo, et al. "Morning and evening exercise." Integr Med Res. 2013 Dec; 2(4): 139–144.
  6. Yano, et al. "Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis." Cell, 161 (2). pp. 264-276.
  7. Galland. "The Gut Microbiome and the Brain." J Med Food. 2014 Dec 1; 17(12): 1261–1272.

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