Researchers have long suggested a link between the gut-brain axis and neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, depression, and eating disorders. Using probiotics and prebiotics to alter the gut microbiota and influence the gut-brain axis may open up new ways of influencing neuropsychological conditions, says a new review.
The majority of the science for probiotics has focused on gut health, but as the understanding of the gut and the microbiome increases, probiotics are increasing linked to a range of beneficial effects, from weight management to immune support and allergy response, and from oral health to cholesterol reduction.
At the “forefront of current research” is work on the gut-brain axis – the two direction communication between the gut microbiota and the brain. Data from rodent studies has indicated that modification of the gut microbiota can alter signaling mechanisms, emotional behavior, and instinctive reflexes.
Researchers have long postulated that gut bacteria influence brain function. A century ago, Russian embryologist Elie Metchnikoff surmised that a healthy colonic microbial community could help combat senility and that the friendly bacterial strains found in sour milk and yogurt would increase a person’s longevity.