Mental health and gut microbiota, towards new therapeutic avenues?
This thematic paper presents the latest advances in the role of the gut microbiota in the onset of mental disorders through the gut-brain axis. When impaired, this axis could be involved in the development of neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, attention deficit disorders or autism. Is it possible to prevent or treat these diseases through microbiota modulation? Are diet or fecal transplant promising therapeutic avenues? Could other pathologies, such as addictions, also be concerned? This thematic paper provides us with some answers to these many questions.
For example, we are told that the gastrointestinal tract also has its own neural network called “enteric nervous system” which is connected to the brain through the vagus nerve. This axis makes bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain possible, each one influencing the other: our emotions have an influence on our gut, just like gut bacteria produce chemical molecules that can have an influence on the intestinal wall and convey messages to the brain. Gut bacteria could thus impact our behavior through the enteric nervous system.
Or that some probiotics have psychotropic properties and are able to directly activate neural pathways between brain and gut. They are called “psychobiotics” and they limit the inflammatory process in the gastrointestinal tract and the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the stomach and intestines. Some of them could be used as an adjuvant therapy to antidepressant and anxiolytic treatments and could relieve the symptoms of several disorders.