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Gut bacteria: your “second brain”

bowel

Just how much do you know about your gut bacteria, and why is it important anyway?

Our intestines are filled with huge numbers of bacteria. Just like animals, bacteria can be classified into many different species, and each individual gut is home to a unique ‘mix’ of these species in various numbers. This mix of bacteria is called the gut microbiota or flora.

Different species thrive in different environments. Various factors (such as antibiotic use, diet and stress) can change the gut environment, and hence change the mixture of the gut flora.

Ok- but why is this important? The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the gut microbiota communicate with each other – this is called the Gut-Brain Axis. In essence, a healthy gut appears to be vital for a healthy central nervous system. Increasing evidence has associated deleterious changes to the composition of the gut flora with inflammation and increased permeability in the gut, which has been linked to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Dietary changes can cause the gut flora population to start to alter within just 24 hours. Likewise, the use of prebiotics and probiotics to restore the balance of “good bacteria” has been suggested as a potentially effective treatment for these conditions. Osteopaths are trained to give nutritional advice about a balanced diet for a healthier lifestyle, so feel free to pop in for a check-up and some friendly advice.

The following article by Clapp et al. (2017) is a really good review of the recent research in the relatively new and fascinating area of neurogastroenterology:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

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