In the mid-2000s, neuroscientist Jane Foster noticed an interesting phenomenon in her laboratory: mice with health gut microorganisms were acting differently than those without. She believed the animals’ gut bacteria was influencing their behavior and mental state. Yet, it wouldn’t be for several years that a potential link between the gut and brain would be considered among the medical community.
Now, the gut-brain axis is widely discussed by neuroscientists. In recent years, thousands of publications have indicated many gut bacteria that have significant effects on the brain. Since then, researchers have been working avidly to determine whether, and how, microbes could play a role in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and autism spectrum disorder, among others.
For instance, it’s believed that a specific strain of E. coli can produce a protein that may cause other proteins to misfold, resulting in errors that are ultimately transmitted to the brain in the case of Parkinson’s disease. In motor neuron disease, it’s suspected certain bacteria produces a vitamin B3 molecule that could travel to the brain and improve symptoms. With autism spectrum disorder, infections during pregnancy seem to be a catalyst. When certain bacteria trigger T-helper 17 cells, an immune system component, they produce immune molecules which travel to the fetus’s brain and appear to cause behaviors seen in autism.
In some cases, gut issues could be an important indicator of potential issues in brain health. For instance, many patients with PD experience symptoms such as constipation long before other characteristics of the disease. With that being said, the disorder presents differently in different individuals.
While there is still much to learn about the potential pathways microbes use to reach the brain, there’s considerable interest by the research community to further investigate potential links between brain and gut health. Researchers are currently exploring how certain bacteria could play a role in the treatment of conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and PD, among others. They’re particularly excited about the prospects since the gut microbiome can be modified, unlike genetics. While there is still considerable work to be done, ongoing efforts could make enormous strides for patients with brain disorders in the future.
Patients are discovering the benefits of having a comprehensive GI test done to determine their current gut health. These tests can be done at home and will determine the root cause of many gastrointestinal symptoms. By improving functional imbalances and inadequacies found, symptoms can improve. Learn more today!
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