By Emily O’Brien
Could your gut impact your brain health? A new study conducted by CU Boulder researchers recently found that beneficial bacteria in your gut, aka gut microbiome, when used as an immunization, can have long-lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, making it more resilient to the physical and mental effects of stress.
The study, which will be replicated in future clinical trials, could eventually lead to new probiotic-based immunizations that would protect against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. It could also be used as a new way to treat depression.
The study was a CU Boulder collaboration between distinguished professor Steven Maier, senior research associate Matt Frank in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and associate professor Christopher A. Lowry, and orchestrated in the Department of Integrative Physiology laboratory.
Probiotics may have the potential to ward off mood disorders.
In short, the findings show that mice inoculated with a particular strain of soil-derived microbe showed signs of reduced stress among other positive benefits. Lowry explained that numerous studies have suggested there is a connection between the gut microbiome and mental health. This could mean that your gut health can be tied to your mood. And eventually, probiotics may have the potential to ward off mood disorders.
“Although we are still trying to understand how the gut microbiome impacts mental health, one likely mechanism is through interactions between the gut microbiome and our immune system,” Lowry said.
Your gut health can have a positive or negative impact on your immune system, depending on what strains of bacteria are present. The negative effect can create exaggerated inflammation, which puts you at risk for developing stress-related psychiatric disorders like PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression.
This new work suggests that, this specific strain of bacteria, and probiotics with similar immune effects could be used to reduce the risk of developing these types of disorders. Although recent studies involved injecting the strain, trials are also on the horizon to see if swallowing them will have the same outcome.
This is also exciting because of the effects on the peripheral immune system. “For example, this strain can prevent allergic airway inflammation and control the balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses,” Lowry said.
There’s still work to do, but it’s possible that other strains of beneficial bacteria or probiotics may have similar effects on the brain. If true, then specific strains of probiotics could be used to help keep things in balance.