Recently, it has become more apparent how microbiota could have a great influence on many aspects of our physiology. It may play a role in gut–brain communication, behavior and brain function.
The gut-brain axis
The gut-brain axis is receiving much recognition in the modern world, although it has been under speculation since the mid-nineteenth century. It is thought that the gut-brain axis provides a two-way route of homeostatic communication between the brain and the gut through hormonal, immunological and neural routes providing a link between cognitive and emotional centers in the brain to peripheral intestinal functions. An imbalance in this axis could lead to pathological consequences like gut inflammation, eating disorders and chronic abdominal pain syndromes. The fact that some gastro-intestinal disorders share a high co-morbidity with stress-related psychiatric diseases supports the importance of this axis.
The idea of a gut-brain axis presents a target in the development of treatments for many disorders from gastro-intestinal disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) to obesity and anxiety disorders. Microbiota is starting to gain attention for the theory that it could have a striking effect on the gut-brain axis. This complex communication system supports the maintenance of gastrointestinal homeostasis and it is likely to have an effect on motivation, mood and higher cognitive functions.
Our gastrointestinal tracts are inhabited by microorganisms that are present in amounts more than tenfold the amount of human cells that we have in our bodies. The relationship between microbiota and the human host is starting to be viewed as mutualistic. To add to this, gut microbiota are thought to play a crucial role in the functioning of our immune systems, nutrient absorption, gut motility and fat distribution.
Diet is one factor that markedly affects the composition of the gut microbiota. Other factors that affect this composition transiently include disease, infection and antibiotics and such factors therefore have an effect on our wellbeing. Stress is yet another factor that could change the composition of the micro-organisms in the gut. Furthermore stress can also disrupt the barrier of the intestines, causing a leaky gut.
Get that gut healthy
Probiotics can be bought in supplement form as live organisms that have health benefits and they can reverse the effects of factors that change the composition of microbiota and damage the intestines. It has been shown that probiotic use reduced stress, anxiety and improved mood in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue. So get your gut healthy and see what it can do for your brain health!
Brain awareness week!
Brain Awareness Week will be held on 14 March – 20 March. BAW is a world-wide campaign to increase the awareness of the public of the benefits and progress of brain research. BAW unites organization’s efforts worldwide in celebrating brain health for young and old.
- Cryan JF, Dinan TG. Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior. Nature reviews: Neuroscience. October 2012; vol. 13: 701-712.
- Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology : Quarterly Publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology. 2015; vol. 28(2): 203-209.
- Cryan JF, O’Mahony SM. The microbiome‐gut‐brain axis: from bowel to behavior. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2011 Mar 1; vol. 23(3): 187-92.