When discussing the gut and the brain, typically the conversation turns to the gut-brain axis, the connection that ties your brain and emotions to your intestines.
A recent study on mice conducted by researchers in Sweden, Singapore and the U.S. has discovered another connection between the gut and brain, but this one guards the brain from damaging chemicals in the blood, even before birth.
This relationship is related to the blood-brain barrier, a semi-permeable “network” of blood vessels that separates the brain from the body’s circulatory system and protects the central nervous system from toxins, blood-borne infections and other harmful substances while maintaining stability and regulating the movement of essential molecules.
Scientists found this link by comparing the development of the blood-brain barriers of two sets of mice. One group of germ-free mice was raised in a sterile environment away from bacterial contact, while the other group was exposed to typical bacteria in a “normal” environment.
Normal vs. Sterile Environments
The results of this study aren’t surprising if you recall our recent posts about the quest for too much cleanliness via the hygiene hypothesis, causing so many health problems.
The differences between both sets of mice started before birth. The gut health of mothers raised in a normal environment protected the brains of mice before they were born by blocking labeled antibodies from circulating into brain tissues. Conversely, those same-labeled chemicals “leaked” into the brains of pups from germ-free mothers.
Also, the leakiness of the blood-brain barrier among germ-free mice continued as they aged from babies to adulthood. While the exact process is still being identified, researchers determined tight junction proteins (important to the permeability of the blood-brain barrier) changed structurally and acted differently in the absence of bacteria.
“These findings further underscore the importance of the maternal microbes during early life and that our bacteria are an integrated component of our body physiology,” says Prof. Sven Pettersson, the principal investigator at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at the Karolinska Institute in a press release.
“Given that the microbiome composition and diversity change over time, it is tempting to speculate that the blood-brain barrier integrity also may fluctuate depending on the microbiome. This knowledge may be used to develop new ways for opening the blood-brain barrier to increase the efficacy of the brain cancer drugs and for the design of treatment regimes that strengthens the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.”
Protecting C-Section Babies
In the human world, babies delivered via a caesarean (C-section) have serious health problems like those young germ-free mice from the beginning of their young lives due to a lack of diversity in their gut microbiomes.
This gut health challenge puts babies at a higher risk for many health problems down the road, ranging from allergies and obesity to diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A safe, simple, non-drug solution that protects and enhances the diversity of your baby’s gut health and lessens prolonged crying and discomfort due to colic and other digestive problems: Give them a multi-species probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids).