Are Poor Gut Health and Faster Brain Ageing Linked?

June 23, 2023 by Leyla Moudden
Are Poor Gut Health and Faster Brain Ageing Linked?


If you think that diminishing brain function only affects those over the age of 65, think again. Although dementia, a serious inflammation of the brain, is more prevalent in over 60’s, anxiety, depression, brain fog, OCD and forgetfulness are also linked to brain inflammation, which is turn is a root cause of accelerated ageing.  

Introducing ‘Free Radicals’ 

‘Free radical’ is the term given to the biological molecules in our body that generate an inflammatory response, accelerate ageing and sustain diseases.  They are naturally generated every time we inhale and exhale and our body has inbuilt detoxification systems to clear them away. 

Whenever we are exposed to a toxin such as pollution, smoke, chemicals, alcohol, processed foods, bugs or viruses, the volume and potency of circulating free radicals increases. When they are abundant, ageing, inflammation and disease progression are rapidly accelerated.

To offset the negative effects of free radicals, we can eat and produce beneficial molecules called antioxidants which are found in leafy fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants attach to the free radicals and switch off their damage potential.

The ‘Free Radical’ Theory Of Ageing

This theory suggests that the underlying driver of ageing is free radical damage. Although free radicals are not the sole cause of ageing (there are many other biological factors involved), increased levels of free radicals are now accepted as one of  9 markers of the ageing process.

When constant unresolved damage to healthy cells by free radicals accumulates over time, an increasing level of inflammation occurs.  This results in cells in the brain, the heart, the skin and other tissues, losing their ability to renew and repair and so they ‘age’. If there is excess inflammation anywhere in your body, ageing occurs more rapidly everywhere, including in the brain.

Inflammation is not the sole contributing factor to ageing. However, its contribution to early ageing, disease and other disorders is a clearly established scientific fact. But how does this inflammation begin? Well, it’s all to do with the relationship between our body and the free radicals that surround us.

Oxidative Stress And Free Radicals

Cells are the material that makes up every part of the human body. Blood, bone, muscle and skin are all formed from cells. The cells in our body run like engines. Where cars run on petrol, human cells perform at their best when receiving a good supply of nutrients. Like a car engine, human cell actions produce a waste product. In a machine, this waste product is ‘exhaust fumes’; in human cells, these equivalents are ‘metabolic waste products. They each have a different name and are often inflammatory. The process of cells taking nutrients in and pushing waste out, is called ‘oxidative stress’ -  a source of free radicals that can affect the brain, as well as joint and muscle tissues. Hello, brain fog. Goodbye, available memory.

If we are exposed to too much alcohol, stress, bad food or poor sleep, this inflammatory process causes our concentration and thinking to dissipate for a few days.  

When inflammation is left unresolved, usually because we are unaware of the mechanisms driving our symptoms, it affects our whole body, including our brains.

When there is oxidative stress (and there is always some), we need enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase to support the clearance of the resulting free radicals.  

Ultimately, Its Inflammation At Work

When we think of inflammation, it’s like our cells are similar to a candle wick. When it’s lit (inflamed), the wick erodes and the surrounding areas melt because of the heat. If we blow the candle out, some of the wick remains and the surrounding areas (the wax) returns to its original state. Suppose we don’t put the candle out. Every part of it will slowly burn away, until the wick disappears and the wax evaporates.

Inflammation affecting human cells is similar.  

If cells are continuously exposed to inflammation, they will erode and the surrounding healthy cells will be negatively affected.  

By resolving the inflammation, we can preserve the cells and their surrounding tissue, in every part of our body, including our brain.

Acute Versus Chronic Inflammation

Most people will have experienced an episode of acute inflammation at least once in their lives. It classically develops fast, lasts a while, then disappears.

Tonsillitis, viral infection and a broken or overstretched limb are all forms of acute inflammation. They follow the pattern of a fast rush of pain, heat and tiredness, that is eventually resolved, thanks to medical or other intervention.  

Chronic inflammation is different. It can be silent, giving few subtle signals, or just minor hints such as digestive health issues. Unaddressed, that, (and all) inflammation, starts to generate increasing numbers of free radicals. This creates a disease-producing cycle, as ongoing inflammation causes free radicals and free radicals create ongoing inflammation.  

So, where does the digestion link come in?

Introducing the ‘Gut-Brain Axis’

The statistics are clear that those with mild and severe digestive disorders suffer more brain, mood and mental illnesses than those with functioning, healthy digestive systems.

One explanation is that there is a close correlation between emotional stress and poorer digestive capacity communicated via ‘the gut-brain axis. This axis is a bidirectional motorway connecting our thoughts and feelings to our digestive system, allowing each to influence the other. This is why we may feel sick when we are nervous or lose our appetite when preparing for an exciting event.

As a result of this close communication, a slowdown of digestive function occurs when stress levels rise, along with an increase of stress levels when digestion is struggling. As digestive problems increase, this has a domino effect on inflammation. Those inflammatory molecules are released into the system, affecting the brain, mood and mind.

In a healthy digestive system, our foods will be effectively broken down, nutrients released and absorbed and waste successfully excreted. Along the way, parts of the digestive tract will become home to bacteria. These beneficial, living entities, secrete anti-inflammatory molecules, support healthy hormonal and blood sugar balance and many more health promoting functions.

Once the digestive system is out of kilter and digestive enzyme secretion slows down, our body can no longer break down enough food to release and absorb nutrients. Critical stress relief, anti-inflammatory and brain-nourishing nutrients and minerals like antioxidants, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial molecules quickly deplete, as the body can no longer process them effectively.  

Instead of nutrition, we get adverse digestive health symptoms, along with a stressed nervous system, anxiety, brain fog and experience difficulties in concentrating – particularly on more complex tasks like planning, organisation and short term memory. 

What connects –  Digestion, Nutrients and Brain Fog?

Few of the benefits from food can pass through our body without help from digestive enzymes.  For good digestion, we need to eat in a relaxed state, chew well, have healthy stomach acid and produce enough digestive enzymes to break down our food, release nutrients and allow absorption. 

When there is a flaw in this system; either because of lifestyle, environment or genetics - it leads to conditions that not only generate distressing symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, wind, cramping, intolerance and pain – but also upsets the balance of gut bacteria (which is called dysbiosis). An overabundance of unhealthy gut bacteria and fungi in the intestinal tract will begin to generate highly inflammatory molecules called Lipopolysaccharides (LPS). They can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, spreading inflammation throughout the brain - resulting in difficulties concentrating, problem-solving and remembering. 

What Are Antioxidant Enzymes?

Let’s go back to the candle analogy. When we blow out a candle, a little smoke is released, i.e. a pollutant. Even though we have put the flame out, there is still a negative consequence. 

The human body is similar – we release free radicals, whether we have inflammation or if it has been resolved. Even if we have recovered and feel well, it is important to consume antioxidant rich foods daily and more critically, antioxidant enzymes

One family of super detoxification enzymes is made up of 8 potent antioxidant enzymes. The cell detox enzyme family are called ‘glutathione peroxidases’ and include glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase. These enzymes break free radicals apart and convert them into harmless substances such as oxygen and water. They protect the integrity of all cells including collagen, brain cells and reproduction. i.e. those associated with longevity and youth. 

Studies investigating the role of the ‘glutathione peroxidase’ enzymes observed a correlation between insufficient levels of detoxification enzymes and higher rates of infertility, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, degenerative brain syndromes such as Dementia, as well as depression, anxiety, brain fog, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cancers and autoimmune diseases.   

Why Aren’t My Natural Enzymes Enough? 

In our modern, ‘developed’ world, exposure to what depletes us, is far greater, than what replenishes us. Few people get decent, undisturbed deep sleep or manage to escape stressors such as air pollution, noise, light, traffic, deadlines, family and financial pressures. Add to these stressors, the constant exposure to nutrient-depleted food loaded with artificial flavours, pesticides, preservatives and other unknowns, all make for a very toxic soup. Our bodies do not have enough opportunities to detoxify and regenerate. Eventually – symptoms appear.  

What Other Help is a Hand? 

This is why Enzymedica developed the supplement Stem XCell; a special blend of natural ingredients to support brain health. It contains the exclusive brain-preserving nutraceutical blend called NT-020 to protect cells from harmful free radicals. Stem cells naturally repair, maintain and generate healthy new brain cells. 

Enzymedica’s Stem XCell also contains the three master antioxidant digestive enzymes, glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase, to offset the damaging effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Plus, a blend of four antioxidant focused digestive enzymes to facilitate digestion, enhance nutrient absorption and alleviate any digestive issues that cause, or be a consequence of worsening brain health.  

Clinical trials have demonstrated that Enzymedica’s Stem XCell patented proprietary formula, helps promote the production of stem cells which contribute to the regeneration of brain tissues and repairs the damage caused by inflammation.