Belly to Brain…Maybe There’s an Inflammation Connection

“You are what you eat,” some say, and that may be even truer when it comes to your MS.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston report that bacteria living in your stomach may influence cells that help control inflammation and degeneration in your brain.

Astrocyte cells

“For the first time, we’ve been able to identify that food has some sort of remote control over central nervous system inflammation,” says Francisco Quintana, PhD, one of the authors of a new study.  “What we eat influences the ability of bacteria in our gut to produce small molecules, some of which are capable of traveling all the way to the brain. This opens up an area that’s largely been unknown until now: how the gut controls brain inflammation.”

Investigators report that when that stomach bacteria brakes down foods that contain tryptophan, the same amino acid that makes you sleepy after your Thanksgiving turkey dinner, a molecule is released.  That molecule travels to the brain where it affects the astrocyte cells that help control brain inflammation.  In blood samples from MS patients, the team found decreased levels of these molecules that control inflammation.  So, they speculate, if the number of these molecules reaching the brain can be increased, through diet changes or diet supplements, the amount of brain inflammation can be reduced.

The research team plans future studies to investigate the gut to brain pathway and the role of diet in controlling MS.  They’re hoping that their results can be translated into targets for therapeutic intervention and biomarkers for diagnosing and detecting the advancement of disease.

The study’s results are published in Nature Medicine.



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