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Gut Bacterium Might Help Stave Off Stress

By jeremyc | June 9, 2018

Is it possible to tweak gut microbiome to ward off stress? According to the latest research, the answer might well be ‘yes’. In the latest study done on mice, the researchers identified a gut bacterium that blocked the bad effects of stress on the brain. If these results are replicated in humans, it could change the way we treat stress-associated mood disorders.

Many studies in the recent past have probed the connection between the gut and the brain. Several of these studies have found a link between the two. For instance, one study stated that when certain gut bacteria are absent, it could lead to alteration in those parts of the brain which play a part in depression and anxiety.

Researchers of another study have hinted at a link between use of stomach acid drugs and depression. They believe that these medications disrupt the connection between the gut and the brain.

It is important to note that the link run both ways. On one hand, the risk of mood disorders increases when certain gut bacteria are absent while, on the other hand, stress has as big a negative effect on the gut microbiome as junk food.

In a previous study, the researchers have identified a microbiome, known as M. vaccae, which is anti-inflammatory. This finding led the current researchers to believe that they could use M. vaccae to ward off stress.

Previous research has shown that inflammation in brain is linked to mood disorders related to stress.

In the recent study done, the researchers noted that when mice were administered M. vaccae, the level of interleukin-4, a protein with anti-inflammatory properties, in the hippocampus increased. Hippocampus is that part of the brain which regulates our fear responses and anxiety. What’s more, the levels of a particular stress-reduced protein, called alarmin, were found to decrease.

These findings are indeed encouraging. The next step is to test whether M. vaccae can produce similar results in humans. If it could, this would change the way we treat stress-related mood disorders.

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