In an effort to better understand the gut-brain connection and its benefits to human health, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California discovered that fasting triggers a genetic switch in the brain that helps prevent the spread of intestinal bacteria into the bloodstream.
Using fruit flies, who exhibit a gut-brain connection similar to that in humans, scientists were able to determine that during fasting, the brain sends a signal to the gastrointestinal tract which prevents the immune system from activating. This helps to strengthen the intestinal barrier so that bacteria cannot leak out and cause inflammation.
The study provides a closer look at how the gut maintains its protective barrier, and researchers believe understanding that process may one day play a key role in treating people with inflammatory bowel disease.
“Fasting has a positive value that spills over not just into the metabolic system, but also inflammation and brain function,” said lead author Dr. Marc Montminy in a recent news release. Additional experiments are already underway.