Mind-Gut Connection

The article, When Gut Bacteria Changes Brain Function: Some researchers believe that the microbiome may play a role in regulating how people think and feel. published in The Atlantic, is fascinating! I highly recommend it.

It’s not yet clear how the microbiome alters the brain. Most researchers agree that microbes probably influence the brain via multiple mechanisms. Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds, effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals, including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve, the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.

This interconnection of bugs and brain seems credible, too, from an evolutionary perspective. After all, bacteria have lived inside humans for millions of years. Cryan suggests that over time, at least a few microbes have developed ways to shape their hosts’ behavior for their own ends. Modifying mood is a plausible microbial survival strategy, he argues that “happy people tend to be more social. And the more social we are, the more chances the microbes have to exchange and spread.”

As scientists learn more about how the gut-brain microbial network operates, Cryan thinks it could be hacked to treat psychiatric disorders. “These bacteria could eventually be used the way we now use Prozac or Valium,” he says. And because these microbes have eons of experience modifying our brains, they are likely to be more precise and subtle than current pharmacological approaches, which could mean fewer side effects. “I think these microbes will have a real effect on how we treat these disorders,” Cryan says. “This is a whole new way to modulate brain function.”

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Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli:

• Increased counts reported in inflammatory bowel disease; • Increased levels found in diarrhea-predominant IBS • Higher in overweight pregnant women compared to normal weight pregnant women and in women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy • Reported to increase with weight loss after gastric bypass, correlating negatively with leptin levels.

Source: https://www.gdx.net/core/interpretive-guides/GI-Effects-IG.pdf

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Bifidobacterium

Bifidobacterium is a genus of gram-positive, nonmotile, often branched anaerobic bacteria. They are ubiquitous inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract, vagina and mouth (B. dentium) of mammals, including humans. Bifidobacteria are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the colon flora in mammals. Some bifidobacteria are used as probiotics. (source)

According to a Bangladeshi microbiota study published last month, poor vaccine efficacy is associated with systemic inflammation due to gut dysbiosis. Bifidobacteria were found a key factor in improving vaccine responsiveness. There are many known strains of bifidobacteria, some considered better than others. Bifidobacteria levels in the USA vary widely among individuals. Studies report much lower levels of bifidobacteria in children with autism. (source)

• Abundance associated with higher bacterial gene richness in the gut • Modulates local and systemic immune responses • Abundance lower in IBD • Abundance lower in IBS; low levels also correlate with symptom severity in IBS • Lower levels seen in type 2 diabetes, pediatric allergy, and autism • Increased levels in obese subjects compared to lean/overweight; infants with lower Bifidobacterium may have increased risk for weight gain in childhood • Abundance decreases after weight loss and gastric-bypass surgery (source)

“Overall, both of these microbes seem to be major players in the gut-brain axis. John Cryan, a neuroscientist at the University College of Cork in Ireland, has examined the effects of both of them on depression in animals. In a 2010 paper published in Neuroscience, he gave mice either bifidobacterium or the antidepressant Lexapro; he then subjected them to a series of stressful situations, including a test which measured how long they continued to swim in a tank of water with no way out. (They were pulled out after a short period of time, before they drowned.) The microbe and the drug were both effective at increasing the animals’ perseverance, and reducing levels of hormones linked to stress. Another experiment, this time using lactobacillus, had similar results. Cryan is launching a study with humans (using measurements other than the forced swim test to gauge subjects’ response).” (source)

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Roseburia

Roseburia is a genus of butyrate-producing, Gram-positive anaerobic bacteria that inhabit the human colon. Named in honor of Theodor Rosebury, they are members of the phylum firmicutes. Increased abundance of Roseburia is associated with weight loss and reduced glucose intolerance. (source)

• Abundance associated with higher bacterial gene richness in the gut • Less abundant in individuals with IBS, particularly constipation-predominant IBS • Counts lower in type 2 diabetics; trending inversely with plasma glucose • Lower in IBD and early-onset rheumatoid arthritis (as part of decreased E. rectale-C. coccoides group) (source)

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The Gut Brain Connection Science News Article

Microbes can play games with the mind: The bacteria in our guts may help decide who gets anxiety and depression

The 22 men took the same pill for four weeks. When interviewed, they said they felt less daily stress and their memories were sharper. The brain benefits were subtle, but the results, reported at last year’s annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, got attention. That’s because the pills were not a precise chemical formula synthesized by the pharmaceutical industry.

The capsules were brimming with bacteria.

In the ultimate PR turnaround, once-dreaded bacteria are being welcomed as health heroes. People gobble them up in probiotic yogurts, swallow pills packed with billions of bugs and recoil from hand sanitizers. Helping us nurture the microbial gardens in and on our bodies has become big business, judging by grocery store shelves.

These bacteria are possibly working at more than just keeping our bodies healthy: They may be changing our minds. Recent studies have begun turning up tantalizing hints about how the bacteria living in the gut can alter the way the brain works. These findings raise a question with profound implications for mental health: Can we soothe our brains by cultivating our bacteria?

The remainder of the article can be found here – https://www.sciencenews.org/article/microbes-can-play-games-mind

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022395615000655

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