Brain function changed among the women while in a resting state as well as during an emotion-recognition task. They found that the bacterial environment in the gut can affect brain activity. The researchers said that this finding has important implications for future dietary or drug interventions to improve brain function.
by Dr. Kelly Brogan
Every functional medicine psychiatrist has case stories of the ‘probiotic cure' of a patient with debilitating symptoms, often obsessive compulsive range, whose symptoms remitted completely with dietary change and probiotic supplementation. Is this voodoo or is it based on a growing understanding of the role of the microbiome in mental health and behavior? For two decades now, pioneering researchers have been substantiating inflammatory models of mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Research has focused on markers that indicate immune distress in an important subset of patients, many of whom are labeled “treatment resistant.” Through this body of literature, we have identified that depression can be induced, in animals and in humans through inflammatory agents, that it is correlated with blood levels of inflammatory markers, in a linear way (more markers = worse depression), and that symptoms can be reversed through pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories.
This could manifest, behaviorally, via magnified antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of intestinal permeability and the detrimental effects of LPS, improved glycemic control, positive influence on nutritional status (and therefore neurotransmission and neuropeptide production), direct production of GABA, and other bioactive chemicals, as well as a direct role in gut-to-brain communication via a beneficial shift in the intestinal microbiota itself.
It is therefore compelling to consider the power of reconnecting to the natural world through our food; communicating through our guts to our brains, that nutrients are plentiful, our bodies are safe, and that our inflammatory systems can be put at ease. It is under these circumstances that the infinite complexity of the endocrine, immune, and gastrointestinal systems can play out, unhindered in support of mental health and wellness.
Probiotic bacteria have the potential to alter brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression-related disorders.