Mental disorders, depression in particular, are becoming a global epidemic. Worldwide, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. A variety of lifestyle and environ mental changes may be responsible for the increased prevalence of mental disorders. One specific area of interest is the relationship between the intestinal microbiota and mental health.
The gut microbiota is essential for human health by protecting against pathogens and digesting food. However, the influence of the microbiota extends beyond the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, playing an important role in the bidirectional communication between the GI tract and the central nervous system (CNS). This connection is also called the gut-brain axis. The high co-morbidity between psychiatric disorders with GI conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease supports the evidence of the existence of this axis. The intestinal barrier appears to play an important role in the communication between the gut and the brain. Impaired barrier function negatively influences hormones, immune cells and bacterial metabolites that affect the gut-brain axis.
The microbiota gut-brain axis; a bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain.
Research has shown that probiotics can positively influence the gut microbiota and intestinal barrier function. This raises the question whether probiotics can influence brain functioning as well. Recent studies have demonstrated the ability of probiotics to influence the gut-brain axis and by this brain functioning.