Can your gut tell your brain how to feel? Well, in the last 10 or so years it has become increasingly clear that the health of gut is intrinsically linked to our emotions and mental health. More specifically, it is the intestinal microbiota which communicate with our brains as to the health status of our gut and vice versa.
It has been known for a long time that our gastrointestinal tract communicates with our central nervous system, but more recently evidence has demonstrated how the gut flora, made up of microorganisms, interacts with our brains.
The communication between the gut and brain is bi-directional and can be achieved via various pathways including neural, endocrine, immune, and humoral. This communication between the gut microbiota and human immune cells often occurs via toll-like receptors (TLRs; proteins that recognise all non-self-substances) and also pattern recognition receptors (PRRs; recognise patterns in pathogens that enter our body). When damage to the gut microbiota occurs, such as through bad diet or inappropriate antibiotic use, they can then influence these TLRs and PRRs to release messages to our immune cells to initiate an inflammatory response.
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