Is beer your perfect drink? Ever wondered if it could be part of a gut-healthy lifestyle? Or what about for your brain health? The effects of alcohol on the microbiome and the brain are well recognized to be detrimental, but here are some reasons to drink beer to support them both.
BRAINY REASONS TO DRINK BEER
Beer is made from barley, hops, water and yeast. The hops used to make beer contain a protective polyphenol called xanthohumol, which has been shown to be neuroprotective (Source).
Beer is rich in B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, B6 and B12. B vitamins are important to brain health in several ways. Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to high homocysteine levels, which are associated with cognitive decline, so ensuring adequate intake is important to maintain a healthy brain. Additionally, B vitamins are involved in brain function, and in the development of the brain, nerves, and myelin sheath (the protective sheath on nerves).
GUTSY REASONS TO DRINK BEER
Beer is a fermented beverage, which typically means it has probiotics. The problem with commercial beers is that they have been pasteurized, which destroys any living probiotics. Probiotics need to be living for us to confer their health benefits. If you make your own beer, or have access to craft beer, then the luck of St. Patty is with you, and you’ll be getting those beneficial organisms. These beers are sometimes referred to as “bottle-conditioned” or “non pasteurized”. Probiotic organisms interact with the brain through the microbiota-gut-brain axis, so eating foods rich in probiotics can have a beneficial impact not just on your gut, but on your brain health too.
Some of Calgary’s unpasteurized, live beers include The Dandy Brewing Company, Big Rock, and High Line Brewing.
Last year a research team at the National University of Singapore, created a probiotic beer using a strain of probiotic that regulates the human immune system, so keep your eyes open for it to appear on the consumer market.
Another good option is a gluten-free beer. Gluten-free beers can include rice, millet, or buckwheat instead of barley and wheat. Gluten causes the protein zonulin to be produced in the intestine, which directly causes leaky gut. Once the intestines become leaky, then a cascade of events happens that have an effect on the blood-brain barrier and neurological health. In the same way that consuming probiotics can help the brain, gluten can have a negative impact through the same gut-brain axis.
The number of gluten-free beers is growing as more and more people recognize that gluten is a problem for them, whether it’s celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
So, if you know you'll be indulging in beer this St. Patrick's Day, then enjoy an unpasteurized or gluten-free beer! And remember to drink responsibly. Regular beer consumption remains questionable for gut and brain health, but we all need to indulge in things we enjoy sometimes, so hopefully this article will help you make better gut and brain beer choices.
Do you have a favourite unpasteurized or gluten-free beer? If you find a beer that is both, let me know. If beer isn't your thing, then toast St. Patty's with a glass of kombucha instead! It can be a great beer replacement.
Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Further Reading: to find out more about gluten and conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s read Is Gluten Killing Your Brain