If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, probiotics may turn out to be your best friend. A study in mice at the University of Michigan has found that probiotics can reverse the effect of stress on the digestive system. The introduction of these microbes seems to help by regulating a key digestive system component inflammasome, which is needed to keep the microbe population in the gut normal. The researchers explained that when stressed, mice produce a hormone (corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH) that interferes with the action of inflammasome leading to inflammation. In the study, pretreating the mice with probiotics reduced stress-induced small bowel inflammation. (Probiotics are products containing the "friendly" bacteria -usually Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium - that normally inhabit the human digestive tract.) Still to come: figuring out optimal probiotic treatment for humans with IBS. In the meantime, the researchers recommended stress management and healthy diets to help ameliorate the impact of stress on the digestive tract. The study was published online on March 7, 2013 in Gastroenterology.
John Y. Kao et “Stress-Induced Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone-Mediated NLRP6 Inflammasome Inhibition and Transmissible Enteritis in Mice. Gastroenterology, 2013; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.