Good bacteria, also known as 'Probiotics' are known for their favorable effects in maintaining gastrointestinal health, but can they encourage psychological health too? New research conducted at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has explored the new world of neurological probiotics and the scientists have put forward novel ideas on how neurochemicals enforce their beneficial effects in maintaining a healthy gut and even psychological well-being when delivered directly to the gut, via probiotic intestinal microbiota. The study was led by Professor Mark Lyte and has been published recently in BioEssays.
The researchers have proposed that neuroactive compounds if delivered via neurochemical-producing probiotics could help improve a host's gastrointestinal and psychological health. These probiotics could be prepared for delivery of the compound using a unifying process of microbial endocrinology.
"This paper proposes a new field of microbial endocrinology, where microbiology meets neuroscience,"
"There is already evidence to suggest that the connection between gut microbes and the nervous system represents a viable route for influencing neurological function. A recent study in mice, for example, showed that the presence of neurochemicals such a serotonin in the bloodstream was due to direct uptake from the gut."
Neurochemicals generated in the gut by 'good bacteria' such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are actively absorbed by the intestines and circulated through a patient's bloodstream. According to Dr. Lyte, this is the hypothesis of the pathway for probiotics to exert extra-intestinal effects including changes in behavior.
Commenting on some of the potential clinical implications of this research, Professor Gregor Reid, from the University of Western Ontario, in the same issue of BioEssays stated,
"Until recently the idea that probiotic bacteria administered to the intestine could influence the brain seemed almost surreal. Yet in Lyte's paper the concept is supported by studies showing that microbes can produce and respond to neurochemicals, which can induce neurological and immunological effects on the host."
Professor Reid concluded,
"The research presents an idea for selecting probiotic strains with neurological applications and linking this with immune-modulatory effects, while highlighting the fact that microbial strains already being widely ingested in fermented food can produce neurochemicals," "Could this mean that adjunct treatment for people suffering from certain types of mental health problems is a fecal transplant? Food for thought."
"Probiotics function mechanistically as delivery vehicles for neuroactive compounds: Microbial Endocrinology in the design and use of probiotics"
BioEssays, Wiley-Blackwell, July 2011, DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100024
BioEssays, Wiley-Blackwell July 2011, DOI: 10.1002/ bies.201100074
Written by Barry Windsor