University of Michigan Health System researchers found that stress can cause changes in the brain-gut interactions and induce intestinal inflammation that leads to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These include diarrhea, chronic abdominal pains and loss of appetite. They also found that these could be prevented by maintaining healthy gut microbiota, or a normal number of “good” bacteria in the intestines. This may be achieved by taking probiotics, or live bacteria that help maintain the number of microorganisms in the gut, which can aid in digestion, improve nutrient absorption and boost immune function.
Using animal models, they induced small bowel inflammation by subjecting laboratory mice to stress. Senior study author and gastroenterologist John Y. Kao, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the UM reveals that stress suppresses the action of inflammasomes, which the body needs to maintain normal gut microbiota. They found that when stressed, mice produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which prevents inflammasomes from inhibiting intestinal inflammation. This results in their failure to maintain normal gut microbiota. However, they found that pretreatment with probiotics reduced intestinal inflammation in stressed mice.
The results of the study suggests that probiotics can protect the gut from the effects of stress by reversing the inhibition of inflammasome, revealing an important mechanism by which patients with IBS may benefit from supplemental intake of probiotics.
Kao adds that more clinical studies are needed to determine the optimal probiotic therapy. He believes that patients can also live healthier lifestyles by *eating more fruits and vegetables in looking for ways to reduce stress to improve their gut microbiota.
University of Michigan Health System. Probiotics reduce stress-induced intestinal flare-ups, study finds. ScienceDaily.