Is Your Brain Leaking? (Psychiatry)

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Recent research has demonstrated a solid link between gut microbes and mental health. There are likely to be multiple mechanisms, but one theory stands above the others: Gut microbes may get unbalanced, like an ecosystem with too many hyenas, and lead to inflammation and even brain damage.

That’s because pathogenic bacteria can eat away at the lining of the gut and create leaks large enough for toxins and even microbes to sneak through into the bloodstream. Once there, the heart obligingly pumps them to every organ in the body. That includes the brain, which is shielded by a cellular fortress that stretches around the blood vessels throughout the skull and spinal cord to keep marauding microbes out. This is called the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

The BBB is porous enough to absorb nutrition yet impermeable enough to exclude pathogens, immune cells and stray neurotransmitters. This is accomplished by molecules that form…

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