Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness
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The human intestine houses an astounding number and species of microorganisms, estimated at more than 10(14) gut microbiota and composed of over a thousand species. An individual's profile of microbiota is continually influenced by a variety of factors including but not limited to genetics, age, sex, diet, and lifestyle. Although each person's microbial profile is distinct, the relative abundance and distribution of bacterial species is similar among healthy individuals, aiding in the maintenance of one's overall health. Consequently, the ability of gut microbiota to bidirectionally communicate with the brain, known as the gut-brain axis, in the modulation of human health is at the forefront of current research. At a basic level, the gut microbiota interacts with the human host in a mutualistic relationship - the host intestine provides the bacteria with an environment to grow and the bacterium aids in governing homeostasis within the host. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that the lack of healthy gut microbiota may also lead to a deterioration of these relationships and ultimately disease. Indeed, a dysfunction in the gut-brain axis has been elucidated by a multitude of studies linked to neuropsychological, metabolic, and gastrointestinal disorders. For instance, altered microbiota has been linked to neuropsychological disorders including depression and autism spectrum disorder, metabolic disorders such as obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Fortunately, studies have also indicated that gut microbiota may be modulated with the use of probiotics, antibiotics, and fecal microbiota transplants as a prospect for therapy in microbiota-associated diseases. This modulation of gut microbiota is currently a growing area of research as it just might hold the key to treatment.
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