Microbiota and the gut–brain axis
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Changes in gut microbiota can modulate the peripheral and central nervous systems, resulting in altered brain functioning, and suggesting the existence of a microbiota gut-brain axis. Diet can also change the profile of gut microbiota and, thereby, behavior. Effects of bacteria on the nervous system cannot be disassociated from effects on the immune system since the two are in constant bidirectional communication. While the composition of the gut microbiota varies greatly among individuals, alterations to the balance and content of common gut microbes may affect the production of molecules such as neurotransmitters, e.g., gamma amino butyric acid, and the products of fermentation, e.g., the short chain fatty acids butyrate, propionate, and acetate. Short chain fatty acids, which are pleomorphic, especially butyrate, positively influence host metabolism by promoting glucose and energy homeostasis, regulating immune responses and epithelial cell growth, and promoting the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. In the future, the composition, diversity, and function of specific probiotics, coupled with similar, more detailed knowledge about gut microbiota, will potentially help in developing more effective diet- and drug-based therapies.