12 January - 20 June 2016

Probiotics and brain chemistry

20 March 13

A couple of studies due for publication in Gastroenterology, appear to indicate a relationship both ways between gut health and brain chemistry.  Prime amongst these is a study financed by Danone, and carried out in conjunction with researchers from UCLA, in which three small groups of women were fed probiotic yoghurt, plain yoghurt or no yoghurt over a period of four weeks. The brain activity of the women fed with probiotic yoghurt was reportedly different from that of the other two groups, indicating a possible communication link between gut and brain. This is reportedly the first time such a link has been demonstrated. A separate study led largely by researchers from the University of Michigan sought to investigate the involvement of key protein receptors in maintaining gut health in animals subject to stress. The team induced intestinal disorders in mice through water-avoidance stress (WAS) for 1 hour each day for 10 days, noting that stress alters brain–gut interactions and can exacerbate intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, alterations in the intestinal microbiota have been associated with IBS.  The team investigated signaling via several protein receptors in the gut, and found that WAS-induced small bowel inflammation (enteritis) was associated with inhibition of a receptor known as NLRP6. Moreover, probiotic therapy reduced intestinal inflammation in mice with WAS-induced enteritis. This, says the team, shows that exposure of mice to stress inhibits NLRP6 and alters the composition of the gut microbiota, leading to intestinal inflammation. These findings might explain the benefits of probiotics for patients with stress-associated gastrointestinal disorders.

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