The Microbiome and Brain Health: What’s the Connection?

Could it be that your gut is really trying to tell you something? According to research, it is possible your gut reactions could be caused by a connection between your gut and brain. Known as the gut-brain axis, there could be a connection that causes your brain to affect gut health and vice versa. Here’s how studies are linking the two. (1)

Understanding Microbiome And Brain Health

Your microbiome develops at birth, consisting of trillions of microbes living in your gut. It changes as you age, and these changes have been linked to many diseases including disorders of the metabolism, autoimmune system, stomach, and brain. Once we hit middle age, the microbiota tends to stabilize, but can still be impacted by factors varying from your location to how often you exercise and from diet to taking medications like antibiotics. These influences play a key role when looking at the gut-brain axis and possible treatments or prevention of brain disorders. (2,3,4,1)

How Do The Microbiome And Brain Health Connect?

Gut/brain communication happens directly and indirectly via several routes including: (1)

  • Central and enteric nervous systems
  • Vagus nerve
  • Endocrine and immunoinflammatory systems
  • Modulation of neurotransmitters

Other contributions include diet which plays an important role in gut microbiota and how it supports nutritional bioavailability. Research focuses on the effects of the gut-brain communication systems using DNA sequencing technology to screen gut bacteria and how it communicates using these pathways. (1)

Healthy vs Unhealthy Microbiome

With so many factors affecting the microbiome, the composition of the microbial profile differs greatly for each person. However, when the microbiome is healthy it helps maintain the healthy function of many systems. An unhealthy gut on the other hand contributes to metabolic, autoimmune, and brain disorders. A good example is a condition known as “leaky gut”. This occurs due to a failure of the mucosal gut barrier to block potentially harmful molecules from entering the bloodstream. These molecules can cause inflammatory responses in the body. Without a standard set to separate a healthy microbiome from an unhealthy one, the health of an individual’s microbiota must be compared to their “normal” state. (1,5)

Microbiome And Brain Health Issues

Here is a breakdown of how studies are linking the microbiome with brain health:

  • Brain Disorders: Early life disruptions, such as stress or severe illness during pregnancy have been linked to damage of the gut/brain signaling and brain disorders that appear later in life. This includes schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and distinct cognitive and behavioral symptoms. (1,6,7)
  • Neurologic Disease: Gut disturbances have been linked to neurologic disorders caused by what is believed to be a misfolding of proteins in the brain. This is possibly related to brain inflammation originating from the gut and can include conditions such as MS, Parkinson disease and Alzheimer. (8,1)
  • Psychiatric Disorders: Depression and other psychological disorders could also be related to the gut. For example, the amount of serotonin in the gut makes looking at the influence of the gut microbiota on serotonin’s precursor, tryptophan, worth delving into. As well, evidence has linked damage to the gut with depression, schizophrenia, and autism. (9,1,10,11)

These are just some examples of the research supporting the link between the microbiome and brain health. If you would like to help maintain a healthy microbiome, click here for healthy recipes.



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