Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Does the Gut Microbiome Hold the Key?
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Gut bacteria strongly influence our metabolic, endocrine, immune, and both peripheral and central nervous systems. Microbiota do this directly and indirectly through their components, shed and secreted, ranging from fermented and digested dietary and host products to functionally active neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and γ-aminobutyric acid. Depression has been associated with enhanced levels of proinflammatory biomarkers and abnormal responses to stress. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appears to be marked in addition by low cortisol responses, and these factors seem to predict and predispose individuals to develop PTSD after a traumatic event. Dysregulation of the immune system and of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis observed in PTSD may reflect prior trauma exposure, especially early in life. Early life, including the prenatal period, is a critical time in rodents, and may well be for humans, for the functional and structural development of the immune and nervous systems. These, in turn, are likely shaped and programmed by gut and possibly other bacteria. Recent experimental and clinical data converge on the hypothesis that imbalanced gut microbiota in early life may have long-lasting immune and other physiologic effects that make individuals more susceptible to develop PTSD after a traumatic event and contribute to the disorder. This suggests that it may be possible to target abnormalities in these systems by manipulation of certain gut bacterial communities directly through supplementation or indirectly by dietary and other novel approaches.
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