Tweaking the protective properties of the gut mucus, a layer lining the inside of the gut, to boost the proliferation of good bacteria potentially could halt the development of neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a review of more than 100 studies.
The review, “The Role of the Gastrointestinal Mucus System in Intestinal Homeostasis: Implications for Neurological Disorders,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
Our gut is lined with a mucus layer that is key for a healthy gastrointestinal system, with properties adapted to each segment of the gut. In the small intestine its composition is more porous to facilitate nutrient absorption, while in the colon it becomes thicker, acting as a physical barrier against harmful bacteria but allowing the natural, beneficial community of microbes living in the gut — the gut microbiome — to thrive.
Moreover, the gut is innervated not only by the autonomic nervous system, but also by its own network of neuronal cells that regulate the functions of the gastrointestinal tract, called enteric nervous system (ENS).
Increasing evidence shows that changes in the gut and its microbiome have far-reaching implications, and are commonly found in people with neurological disorders, such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and also MS.
Now, researchers at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, reviewed 113 neurological, gut and microbiology studies suggesting that changes in the gut mucus composition could play a role in neurological disorders.
“Mucus is a critical protective layer that helps balance good and bad bacteria in your gut but you need just the right amount — not too little and not too much,” Elisa Hill-Yardin, said in a press release. Hill-Yardin is a professor at School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University and the study’s senior author.
“Researchers have previously shown that changes to intestinal mucus affect the balance of bacteria in the gut but until now, no one has made the connection between gut mucus and the brain,” Hill-Yardin said.
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