Stress, the sort that persists and comes from sources beyond our control, can be detrimental to our health, and even more so to the young (Luna R. et al. 2015). When outside sources of stress are present from a young age, normal development and the adult stress response is impacted in a way that makes healthy coping with stress more difficult throughout life (McEwen et al. 2011) (Eliand L. et al. 2013). Environmental stressors can not only cause developmental changes and impact overall health but can also cause changes to a person’s microbiome or the sum of microbes that coexist with an individual. Which could in-turn alter the sort of metabolites a person secretes (Verbeke K et al. 2015).
It is currently estimated that the number of bacterial cells in our body roughly matches or exceeds the number of human cells, with the majority of these bacteria residing in the gut (Sender, et. al 2016). You may be familiar with literature identifying a “gut-brain” axis, i.e. a relationship between mental health and the composition of our microbiota. Studies have shown correlations between bacterial community makeup and disorders such as autism, depression and schizophrenia (Foster & Neufield 2013), (Dickerson, et. al 2017). Bacterial disbalance has also been correlated with diseases such as diabetes and obesity (Hartstra, et. al. 2014). A common factor between these disorders is that they are generally associated with lower microbial diversity. While there is a growing body of literature supporting the relationships between disease and dysbiosis, a perturbation of the microbial community, little research has explored the relationships between personality and patterns in variation of the healthy microbiome.
You are what you eat, or so many people have been told. Researchers today are discovering that this age-old saying may be even more true that previously thought. “The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease’(7). Actually, the human microbiome project is a continuing effort of scientists from across the globe working together to better understand how all of the microbiological members of the immediate human environment (the microbiome) interact with our daily lives. The human microbiome is vast network of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on the human body including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses(9). According to the National Institute of Health’s website, the human body is made up of 1-3% of microorganisms by mass(1).Continue reading “Gut Instinct: Brains on Bacteria”
The vaginal microbiome: We live in a world of microbes, and yet we are still learning new things about these millions of ‘germs’ every day and how they influence us, but what about our children? New research suggests a mother’s stress during pregnancy could be another puzzle piece in the development of baby’s microbiome and brain. According to the CDC nearly 4 million children were born in the United States in 2016, which resulted in mothers giving their offspring microbes, whether the baby was born through c-section or vaginally. Recent research (Rutayisire et al., 2016) is starting to show that there may be an advantage to birthing vaginally, as young are exposed to their mother’s microbiome.Continue reading “For the microbiomes of our future”
Depression is a mood disorder that is heterogeneous in nature. Depression causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities (NIMH, 2017). According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people and is a major worldwide contributor to the burden of diseases. This is especially pertinent considering that depression is one of the mood disorders associated with suicide, some others being anxiety, schizophrenia and PTSD. On an annual basis suicide leads to the death of nearly 800,000 people and is the second leading cause of death within the age group of 15 to 29 year olds (WHO, 2017). The underlying causes of depression are a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. It is essential to analyze these factors to understand the contribution of each in the development and maintenance of major depressive disorders. Continue reading “Depression and Microbial Dysfunction: A Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain.”
When studying mental illness, the brain has long been the focal organ of interest. Psychiatry and neurobiology examine communication from the brain and how its chemical imbalance produces central nervous system (CNS) disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, microbiology presents a new avenue of inquiry that is looking from the opposite direction: how is communication to the brain affecting mental health? This is a provocative question under investigation through recent studies of the microbiota of our gut.Continue reading “Does your gut control your brain?”