The Gut-Brain Axis and the Microbiome: Mechanisms and Clinical Implications

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Jan;17(2):322-332. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.10.002. Epub 2018 Oct 4.


Background & aims: Based largely on results from preclinical studies, the concept of a brain gut microbiome axis has been established, mediating bidirectional communication between the gut, its microbiome, and the nervous system. Limited data obtained in human beings suggest that alterations in these interactions may play a role in several brain gut disorders.

Methods: We reviewed the preclinical and clinical literature related to the topic of brain gut microbiome interactions.

Results: Well-characterized bidirectional communication channels, involving neural, endocrine, and inflammatory mechanisms, exist between the gut and the brain. Communication through these channels may be modulated by variations in the permeability of the intestinal wall and the blood-brain barrier. Brain gut microbiome interactions are programmed during the first 3 years of life, including the prenatal period, but can be modulated by diet, medications, and stress throughout life. Based on correlational studies, alterations in these interactions have been implicated in the regulation of food intake, obesity, and in irritable bowel syndrome, even though causality remains to be established.

Conclusions: Targets within the brain gut microbiome axis have the potential to become targets for novel drug development for brain gut disorders.

Keywords: Diet; Early Life Influences; Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Factors / metabolism*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Host Microbial Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*


  • Biological Factors