We may have discussed that our microbiome and gut health influences mood and behavior, but didn’t really know how until now. More research has emerged giving us a deeper look at the microbiomes responses to stress.
Studies have been done on mice identifying differences in cell wiring, brain activity and gene expression. This is a fascinating article identifying certain compounds created by microbes in the gut that are involved in nervous system signaling. The microbiome may produce certain substances in abundance that make their way into the brain.
We know that the intestinal microbiome is altered in those with brain conditions. But what we don’t know is whether the differences in the microbiome give rise to neurological problems or does the neurological condition change the microbiome. There is also disagreement on the consequences of a healthy and unhealthy microbiome and what types of bacteria provide either risk or resilience to stress-related disorders. Maybe it’s not particular microbes as much as it is the diversity of the microbiome.
The study of microbial effects on the nervous system is still quite young. Animal studies may show some correlation between the microbiome and the nervous system but they don’t point to any treatments in humans. Humans process emotion, physical sensation and cognition in the brain differently than animals. In humans vs animals, our environments affect our nervous system by way of the microbiome and then there are diet-driven differences as well.
Interventions targeting the microbiome might be the most effective in infancy and childhood. The microbiome is most influential in infancy when the microbiome is still developing and early programming takes place in the brain. The hope someday is to identify microbial substances that help predict who is most vulnerable to disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Human microbiomes continue to evolve as more people have come to live in cities and brain disorders have become more prevalent. The complexity of microbes inhabiting each of us has evolved with our species and it’s vital that we understand how they impact us physically, mentally and emotionally.