Food, Fibres, Bacteria and the Brain

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The relationship between the gut and the nervous system—which includes the brain, peripheral, immune and enteric nervous systems—has become a hot area of research over the last 20 years. There is a proposed ‘axis of emotion’ that is subject to a constant reciprocal exchange of information using neural, immune, endocrine, metabolic and emotional pathways.

The microbes in the gastrointestinal tract are part of this system and include an astonishingly wide variety of bacterial species. They can exert numerous effects on the intestinal neuroimmune system and influence our body’s metabolic activity, immune response and physiological function.1 Both the composition and activity of these microbiota (whose genes compose what is known as the intestinal microbiome) are prone to perturbation via a variety of influences including host physiology, immunology, diet, antibiotic usage and enteric infection.

Imbalances in our gut flora, known as dysbiosis, are associated with gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders, but a large body of evidence now suggests that the host-microbial interaction may result in dysregulated neuroimmune function, impacting behavior and mood. Improving dysbiosis and establishing eubiosis is an important part of any functional treatment plan for psychological disorders.2

The combined use of foods, rich in suitable substrates, specialised fibres for specific bacterial population enhancement and carefully selected bacterial strains can impart a collective effect that reverses or stabilises complex gut brain axis disturbances. If we feed our microbes the right food, we can enhance the function of our entire nervous system. Perhaps Patrice Cani, MsC, PhD, of Université catholique de Louvain in Brussels, put it best: “My motto is, ‘In Gut We Trust.”3



  1. Devore E, et al.  Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline.  Ann Neurol. 2012 Jul; 72(1): 135–143.  PMC3582325
  2. Drake V & Haller J.  Cognitive Function.  Linus Paulin Institute, Micronutrient Information Center.  2011.  Accessed 16 March 2015. View Full Paper
  3. Khamsi R. A gut feeling about immunity. Nat Med. Vol 21 (7), pp. 674-7 July 2015. PMID: 26121192
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