How One Small Gut Molecule Could be Increasing Anxiety Symptoms

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This small thing can alter your brain cells leading to anxiety

Are you inclined to change your attitude, behaviour and outlook when experiencing uncomfortable gut symptoms? The following study quickly points out how much our gut health affects our emotional behaviours. This particular research paper appears in the Journal Nature, conducted on February 14th. Several decades of research show that bacteria inhabit the intestines of animals, which influence the immune system and metabolism. In addition, studies within the last few years link the microbiome to brain function and mood. Individuals with certain neurological conditions exhibit different gut bacteria communities. Studies on mice show that manipulating these communities alter neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative states. Manipulation can either help or hinder the symptoms. Brittany Needham, a postdoctoral scholar in the Mazmanian lab, states, “We are interested in understanding molecular messages filtering between the gut and brain, and how these messages lead to changes in behaviour.” Anxiety disorders are a lot more complex in humans in comparison to animals. Animals provide ways to study precise changes occurring in the brain and body that lead to anxious behaviours..It’s interesting to note that anxiety is measured by how much risk a mouse is willing to take in an environment. Bold mice will spend more time in a risky environment than anxious mice, hiding and becoming fearful. A group of mice became colonised with a genetically engineered bacteria that produced 4EPS. Microbes produce 4EPS in the intestine. It is then absorbed into the bloodstream to circulate into the body. Another group of mice were colonised identically but inhibited from producing 4EPC. Both groups of mice were then introduced into a new area and left to explore whilst researchers monitored each mouse’s behaviour. Mice genetically engineered to produce 4EPS spent less time exploring and more time hiding than those with non-4EPS. In addition, their brain regions become highly activated and are associated with fear and anxiety. Scientists then treated the 4EPS mice with a drug that reduced the mouse’s anxious behaviours. Small studies in humans also showed levels of decreased anxiety. The positive changes that could result from this study may give humans some much-needed relief from anxiety. More clinical trials are now underway to expand on this further. As a person who suffered from years of gut and digestion challenges, it’s positive to see that we can alter our gut microbiome and experience quality of life. Stay tuned for more updates on this fascinating subject with evidence pointing out that our gut is, in fact, the second brain. You can read more about this here.

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